Rising radioactive spills leave Fukushima fishermen floundering
By Antoni Slodkowski | Reuters – 2 hrs 20 mins ago
May 31, 2013
By Antoni Slodkowski
HISANOHAMA, Japan (Reuters) – Dozens of crabs, three small sharks and scores of fish thump on the slippery deck of the fishing boat True Prosperity as captain Shohei Yaoita lands his latest haul, another catch headed not for the dinner table but for radioactive testing.
Japan’s government banned commercial fishing in this area, some 200 km (125 miles) northeast of Tokyo, after a devastating 2011 tsunami and the reactor meltdowns and explosions that followed at the nearby Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.
The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, or Tepco, has battled since then to keep radioactive water used to cool the crippled reactor from leaking into the ground and the sea.
The walls of a once-bustling fish market that sold Yaoita’s catch of flounder, rockfish, greenling and other sealife in the port of Hisanohama, about 20 km (12 miles) south of the ruined plant, remain in ruins.
The fishermen of Hisanohama, forced out of work by the disaster, have had no choice but to take the only job available – checking contamination levels in fish just offshore from the destroyed nuclear reactor buildings.
“We used to be so proud of our fish. They were famous across Japan and we made a decent living out of them,” said 80-year-old Yaoita, who survived the tsunami by taking on the waves and sailing the six-person True Prosperity out to sea.
“Now the only thing for us is sampling.”
Shoulders stooped from years of hard work, Yaoita is happy to be back pulling fish out of a 300-metre (330 yards) net. Like many younger fishermen, he’s unsure how long he can stay at it.
The fishermen and Tepco are in dispute over the utility’s plans to dump 100 tons of groundwater a day from the devastated plant into the sea. The complicated clean-up plan for Fukushima could take 30 years or more. Tepco’s challenge is what to do with the contaminated water that has been pooling at the plant at a rate of 400 tons a day – enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool in a week.
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