CNN reported on February 20, 2014, “The leak of an estimated 100 metric tons of highly contaminated water was discovered late Wednesday, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said in a statement”(1). A BBC report indicated, “the water from Wednesday’s leak was radioactive, with a reading of 230 million becquerels per litre of radioactive isotopes”(2). The report goes on to say that the World Health Organization “advises against drinking water with radioactivity levels higher than 10 becquerels per litre”(2).
CNN indicated that TEPCO reported the contaminated water did not go into the Pacific Ocean. Indeed, there has been much concern over the far-reaching and long term affects of radiation in the Ocean since the meltdown of 3 reactors caused by an earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March of 2011.
In 2013 RT published an article on August 7th that stated “For the past two years, TEPCO has claimed that it managed to siphon off the excess water into specially-constructed storage tanks. However, the company was forced to admit late last month that radioactive water was still escaping into the Pacific Ocean”(4). In the same article when referencing the amount of contaminated water leaking into the ocean, Yushi Yoneyama, an official with the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, which regulates TEPCO was quoted as saying, “We think that the volume of water is about 300 tons a day”(4). The RT article reported that TEPCO confirmed the leak but would not reveal the extent.
So, what progress has TEPCO made since the August 2013 article.
Apparently the contaminated ground water is still leaking into the ocean at a considerable rate. An article written by The Guardian December 3, 2013 indicated, “TEPCO estimates that around 300 tonnes of contaminated groundwater still flow into the Pacific each day”(5).
Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, has been following and monitoring Pacific Ocean radiation levels since Fukishima’s meltdown. He believes the initial release of radiation following the meltdown will reach the US west coast in three years.
It is good to note, that in addition to the ongoing contaminated water leaking into the Pacific, there was an initial amount of radiation released into the ocean following the Fukushima meltdown. As an article written August 7, 2013 by National Geographic explains “the level of radioactive contamination that the plant was spewing in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, estimated to be from 5,000 to 15,000 terabecquerels, according to Buesseler. For a comparison, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima released 89 terabecquerels of cesium-137 when it exploded”(7).
The World Health Organization acknowledges that while the cancer rates in Japan will probably increase as a result of radiation released from the Fukishima meltdown, it is unclear as to what extent long-term exposure of contaminated water leaking into the ocean will cause.
The National Geographic article goes on to say, “As Buesseler’s research has shown, tests of local fish in the Fukushima area still show high enough levels of radiation that the Japanese government won’t allow them to be caught and sold for human consumption”(7).
While reviewing the literature on radiation from Fukushima, it appears the main concerns are cesium and strontium 90(Sr-90). Exposure to cesium 137 increases cancer risk. Internal exposure to Sr-90 is linked to bone cancer, cancer of the soft tissue near the bone, and leukemia(9). The National Geographic article references Buelleler as saying “Cesium is like salt—it goes in and out of your body quickly,” he explains. “Strontium gets into your bones.”
The fact that Strontium goes into the bones means it bio-accumulates. This means, that as fish are eaten by bigger fish, strontium 90 will accumulate in ocean life. As people eat the fish it could end up in us as well.
It seems, that as the contaminated water leaches through the soil at Fukushima into the ocean, cesium is filtered by the soil. Strontium is not. This means, that as the contaminated water reaches the ocean, more bioaccumulation in organisms, including humans could occur.
Are we seeing the early results of Fukushima as millions of star fish literally melt and break apart on the US west coast from Alaska to California?
Are we seeing the effects on seals as they turn up dead, sick, with open wounds, internal ulcers, and hair-loss?
Are we seeing the effects as recent observations show the considerable decrease in salmon populations returning to spawn?
Are we seeing the effects on herring as they are found bleeding from their eyes and other various parts in fisherman nets and on beaches?
In addition to these relatively recent events, A November 22, 2013 National Geographic article referenced a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which indicated, “In March 2012, less than one percent of the seafloor beneath Station M was covered in dead sea salps. By July 1, more than 98 percent of the bottom of the ocean was covered by decomposing organisms”(11).
Are these recent events coincidence? It is hard to say.
I am aware that both long and short term effects have been quickly minimized by some, and that the anomalies in the ocean have been written off as non-coincidental with respect to Fukushima. What I do not understand is how some believe they can be certain of the effects it will have on the present and future, with little research on the issue. I believe that more research is needed before we dismiss the consequences that this may have on the delicate balance of our ecosystem, and our own well-being, not only the local, but global.
Yours in Health,
Sean Ripp, D.C.