Record levels of radioactive cesium in seawater and tritium in groundwater measured at Fukushima Daiichi
As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, record levels of hazardous radioactive substances have been measured in both the ocean just offshore, as well as in the groundwater beneath, the devastated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeast Japan.
"[A] combined 10 becquerels [270 picocuries] of cesium-134 and cesium-137 per liter" was measured by nuclear utility Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) at the mouth of the bay which leads into the Pacific Ocean (see aerial photo, left). TEPCO measured 2.7 becquerels [73 picocuries] of cesium-134, and 7.3 becquerels [197 picocuries] of cesium-137, per liter of seawater at the port mouth. This is a dramatic increase over previous measurements.
The Asahi Shimbun also reports that "[o]n Oct. 8, the company also detected 1.4 becquerels [37.8 picocuries, presumably per liter] of cesium-137 from seawater sampled 1 kilometer off the mouth of the port," indicating that the radioactive contamination hemmoraging from the Fukushima Daiichi site is, in fact, flowing out to sea.
The Asahi Shimbun concluded:
"Meanwhile, TEPCO measured 320,000 becquerels [8.65 million picocuries] of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, per liter from water sampled from an observation well on Oct. 10 located near a storage tank, from which the leakage of 300 tons [about 72,000 gallons] of highly contaminated water was discovered in August...
It marked the first time that water containing 300,000 or more becquerels [8.1 million picocuries] of tritium per liter was detected from groundwater sampled from the compound of the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
It is more than five times the [Japanese] legally allowed maximum level of tritium contamination--60,000 becquerels [1.6 million] per liter--that could be released into the ocean."
It is remarkable that the unchecked flow of radioactive water -- stemming from groundwater flow through radioactively contaminated sub-levels of the devastated Fukushima Daiichi reactor units, as well as major leaks from highly radioactive water storage tanks -- is only five times the Japanese legally allowed maximum contaminant levels of tritium in water. In other words, ordinary or routine operations at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, or other Japanese atomic reactors, for that matter, were allowed, under law and regulation, to release to the groundwater and even ocean, levels of tritium at some 20% of what has resulted from the ongoing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe.
As shown in Beyond Nuclear's pamphlet "Routine Radioactive Releases from U.S. Nuclear Power Plants," as well as its report "Leak First, Fix Later," there have been and still are an epidemic of "planned" and "unplanned" tritium releases into the environment in this country, even without so-called "accidents."
Remarkably, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) considers 1 million picocuries per liter of tritium in groundwater "acceptable" or "permissible," not to confused with "safe." Acceptably or permissibly risky would be more honest phrases.
However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, under the Safe Drinking Water Act, allows on 20,000 picocures per liter in drinking water.
As reported by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), "this corresponds to a lifetime fatal cancer risk of about one in 25,000 for a person drinking two liters a day for a lifetime. This is far less protective than a one-in-a-million risk level, the most stringent standard for cleanup for a single pollutant at Superfund sites containing radioactive waste."
40 times less protective, to be exact.
Tritium limits are even stronger elsewhere. As reported by IEER:
"California’s public health goal is 400 picocuries per liter (1 in 1 million lifetime fatal cancer risk). Colorado’s surface water tritium standard for Rocky Flats clean up, made in agreement with the Federal government is 500 picocuries per liter."
Even the Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Board has recommended a tritium in drinking water limit of 450 picocuries per liter. However, Canadian regulations allow a whopping 7,000 picocures per liter, apparently to accommodate the operations of 20 CANDU reactors in Ontario alone -- infamous generators of large amounts of tritium.
As reported on Oct. 11th by the Asahi Shimbun, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has agreed to work with TEPCO and the Japan national government's Nuclear Regulation Authority to bolster the credibility of its radioactivity monitoring around Fukushima Daiichi. Unmentioned, however, is the fact that IAEA has a crisis in credibility all its own -- as its charter requires it to promote nuclear power, in addition to regulating its safety.