The central organization representing Japan’s fishery cooperatives lodged a strong protest Friday over Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s failure to disclose the recent leak of radioactive rainwater from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant into the sea, calling it a betrayal of fishermen and the public.

“It is undeniable that (this failure) will further spread the harmful rumor that has been troubling fishermen nationwide and will largely affect the future of the fishing industry. The anger among local fishermen who have been waiting to resume their business is immeasurable,” the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations said in a statement submitted to industry minister Yoichi Miyazawa, who oversees Tepco.

On Tuesday, Tepco said it knew that a drainage ditch running near the contaminated reactor buildings has been showing high levels of radiation and that rainwater running there has been flowing into the seas since last spring.

Hiroshi Kishi, chairman of the federation, urged the minister and Tepco to thoroughly explain why the company had not informed the public of this issue, to implement measures to stop the leak and to strengthen radiation monitoring of the sea.

Naohiro Masuda, who heads Tepco’s decommissioning unit, apologized Thursday for the failure to disclose the information and said that decommissioning Fukushima No. 1 may be delayed.

“To make progress with the decommissioning effort and solve the tainted-water issue, the trust of the people in Fukushima is the most important thing. We’ve been working with that in mind, but unfortunately, we have damaged that trust,” Masuda said.

One task expected to be affected by the surge in radiation detected in water draining into the sea is the effort to pump slightly tainted groundwater from wells around the reactor buildings.

About 300 tons of clean groundwater seeps into the reactor buildings each day before mingling with the tainted cooling water, and Tepco is hoping to use the pumping maneuver to reduce the amount of groundwater and treat it so it can be dumped into the sea.

The utility, however, needs the fishermen’s approval to dump it — a prospect the latest problem appears to have endangered.

The company said Wednesday it had not thought the information needed to be disclosed, citing a lack of data from seawater samples taken about 1 km from the drainage outlet indicating the levels of radiation in the sea around the ditch have spiked visibly.

Masuda also said that Tepco had thought Fukushima Prefecture residents and the general public were more interested in information on other risky decommissioning tasks, such as managing the hundreds of water storage tanks and removing tainted water from the underground trenches connected to the Fukushima No. 1 reactor buildings.

But Kishi of the federation slammed Tepco’s apparent lack of understanding for the fishermen caused the delay of announcing the water leak.

Tepco has detected some 1,050 becquerels of cesium and 1,500 becquerels of beta ray-emitting materials per liter of water in an outlet leading to the sea last August.

Highly radioactive pools of water on the roof of the reactor 2 building are believed to be the source of contamination, as the radiation levels have gone up when it rains and rainwater goes to the ditch from the roof.

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