News of the leak of contaminated water from a storage tank at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is the latest blow to local fishermen who had hoped to restart their livelihoods.
Toshimitsu Konno, a fishing skipper who belongs to the Soma-Futaba fishermen’s union in Fukushima Prefecture, said he was disheartened by the leak that occurred in an underground storage tank and may have reached underground water. Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant operator, insists that contaminated water has not seeped into the sea.
But Konno, 54, is not reassured by the utility's comments, when it acknowledged April 6 the leaking of about 120 tons of contaminated water.
“I am afraid that we will continue to be plagued by this kind of problem until the reactors are finally decommissioned,” Konno said. “Decontamination operations got under way in areas surrounding the plant, but we fishermen are the ones that will have to suffer until the end due to the increasing amount of contaminated water at the plant.”
Commercial fishing for about 40 marine species has been banned after some varieties caught in waters near the crippled plant were found to have radiation levels exceeding the food safety limit.
Those in coastal fisheries say they have no idea when they can return to full operations.
Local fishermen resumed fishing in June last year on a trial basis, starting with octopus and a shellfish called Tsubu.
These species are considered less vulnerable to the effects of radiation. In Soma, a city to the north of the plant, trial fishing of sand eel was launched in late March.
Sand eel is one of the 14 species fishermen are allowed to catch on a preliminary basis.
The marine product was shipped twice to the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo for sale, the second time fetching a higher price than the initial offering.
Konno said he was happy to be able to return to fishing on the first day of trial operations.
In the city of Iwaki to the south of the plant, members of the Iwaki fishermen’s union have cooperated with officials over the monitoring of radiation levels of young sardines and sand eels in the hopes that it may lead to an initial resumption of fishing.
Shoichi Yabuki, 76, who heads the union, said the latest leak comes at a time fishermen are preparing for a tentative restart of their livelihoods after a two-year hiatus since the nuclear accident that unfolded in March 2011 following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
“If leaks reoccur, I am afraid that an increasing number of fishermen will quit,” Yabuki said. “That is what I am concerned most.”
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