Tuesday 31 January 2012

The Sea

It's hard to know what to believe. Got an e-mail from avaaz, the protest organisation, urging me to take part in a petition to be sent to Edano who is trying to evict some Fukushima mothers who have set up camp outside his Ministry. Save the Fukushima mothers. There's a link to one Mochizuki-san and his Fukushima Diary (though he himself seems to have fled the country) and references to a 'media blackout'. Certainly I've never seen or heard of these demonstrators. His blog has some interesting information (and a live webcam of Fukushima Daiichi). Is there a media blackout? Are we getting the truth?
(Correction: Got a comment (see below) on this from Ruthie who has supported the demonstrators. The leader of the Fukushima Mothers is a photo journalist who has covered Minamata pollution and Three Mile Island  Aileen Mioko Smith . Also forget Mochizuki but try for worldwide media coverage of Fukushima and translations of articles in the Japanese press.)

Surprised then by the tone of this NHK documentary on TV a couple of Sundays ago. NHK is the national broadcasting company, mainstream, establishment, and generally falling over backwards to portray people battling (succesfully) against the odds. But this is a measured and damning report of the contamination in the sea caused by the nuclear accident, and of the government's response. Let me run you through the programme.

On land we now have a 'contamination map` but there's no such map of the sea. NHK, with the help of university researchers set out to make one. Again and again it was said that this was the first time such research had been done. One has to ask why a television crew should be doing this and not the government? Anyway, their ship was allowed into the 20 km area round the reactor and they set about measuring the radiation in the water. It's highest on the sea bed. 2.5mSv/hour. The mud registered 4,250 bq/kg. So much for the Nuclear Safety Agency's announcement after the accident that toxic water would be dispersed. It didn't disperse. Radioactive particles sank to the bottom of the sea.

Fish in the 20 km area were registering 2,300 bq/kg. (Current food safety level  500 bq/kg, to be reduced to 100 bq/kg in April.) It turns out that little worms on the seabed eat the mud and the fish eat the worms. They did tests and the flatfish which ate the worms had the same amount of caesium as the mud. Conclusion: as long as there is caesium on the sea bed, the fish will be contaminated. Bad news for the fishermen eager to get back to work.

The boats then travelled south down the coast testing radiation levels and taking samples of mud. 80 kilometres from the nuclear plant, caesium in the mud was down to 30 bq/kg, but at a different spot further down and 120 kms from the nuclear plant there was a 'hotspot' of 380 bq/kg. Worryingly a place which showed 38 bq/kg in October showed 111 bq/kg when the test was repeated in December. Unlike the land, contamination in the sea is continually shifting, the map ever changing.

Next we're taken to a  lake high in the mountains in Gunma prefecture 200 kms from the reactor where fish are far too contaminated to eat. The lake acts as a basin collecting rainwater from all around with only one river flowing out. Moreover it's deep. Contaminated fish die, sink to the bottom, become part of the food chain, and radiation concentrations in the water increase in a vicious circle.

Cut to Ukraine where for 25 years researchers have been testing fish in freshwater lakes.  'Difficult, hard to deal with. You just have to keep on testing. Basically you have to wait 30 years for the caesium to reach its half life' says the expert.

The survey boats travel next to Tokyo Bay. Most of the bay is clear but there are hotspots at the mouth of the Edo and Arakawa Rivers. Seems that caesium joins with salt molecules and sinks to the seabed creating hotspots. The situation will get worse as rain continues to wash caesium off the land, levels will peak in 2 years but the problem will persist for 10 years.

Doom and gloom. And the programme makers were saying that no surveys have been made of rivers, lakes and ponds. Again it goes to show what an intractable problem we have here. We're OK in Koriyama. Levels down to 0.6 μSv/hour these days and everyone's busy getting on with their lives. But there must be food for thought in all of this. More of that another time.

NHK Special シリーズ原発危機 知られざる放射能汚染 海からの緊急情報
                      Shiriizu genpatsu kiki, shirarezaru hoshano osen, umi kara no kinkyu joho        
                      Nuclear Crisis Series, unknown radioactive contamination, urgent report from the sea
(broadcast on Sunday 15 January 2012)


  1. Anne, My name is Ruthie Iida, and I'm writing from Kanagawa Prefecture. The mothers from Fukushima have been outside of Kasumigaseki since September, faithfully. Five young people began with a ten day hunger strike there, and afterwards the Fukushima mothers took over. Foreign media have been covering this, and there are tiny bits and pieces in the mainstream Japanese papers, though nothing at all on NHK. Are you reading the blog of EX-SKF?? He's in a different caliber than Mochizuki-san (the Fukushima Diary guy, who's looking for attention and sympathy in a big way), and always knows what's happening where. I have a blog on wordpress as well, if you're interested; I'd love to exchange versions of current events. Mine's at Oh.....and about the's pretty bleak. And I have no doubt that it's for real. Thanks for your blog, and keep your spirits up. Sorry to write a book here, but I couldn't help myself!

    1. Hi
      Thank you for your comments. Looked up all your references (including your own blog) and learnt a lot. I've put in a correction to the above post and also mentioned it in the next.

  2. You're very welcome. I've learned a lot from your blog as well. It was quite disheartening to realize that the Tokyo tent has been up for so many months, and yet there are women in Fukushima who still know nothing of it. We're all pulling for you, and for the recovery of Fukushima, so spread the word. Glad you're reading "Prometheus Trap"--it's excellent. Now check out a bi-lingual blog called "seetell"...