Fukushima’s Damnably Unstable Atoms Contaminate Pacific Ocean

image: Abode of Chaos/Flickr

Richard Wilcox
Activist Post

Water is life’s matter and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water. – Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, biochemist

We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. – The Bible, Isaiah 64:6

Over one and a half years has passed since the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station. Both US scientists, basing their findings on Japanese government data, and Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) itself, admit that nuclear reactors are probably continuing to contaminate the Pacific Ocean with radiation.

The way the Establishment treats the issue is revealing, ranging from mild concern to glib indifference, to blatant double-speak. While the New York Times has a reputation for standard-setting journalism, close scrutiny of their reporting (cited below) shows they promote the best-case scenario while downplaying dangers. The word “glib” pretty much sums up their style. For example, the NYT notes at the end of their article that while on the one hand Tepco denies radiation is leaking into the ocean, Tepco’s “spokesman” said he could not rule out radiation leaks. NYT leaves it at that without pursuing the truth of the matter.

It would be impolite for NYT to take Tepco to task too forcefully and at any rate NYT has a proud and well established record of promoting perpetual war for perpetual peace, the nuclear weapons arms race and “atoms for peace” nuclear energy (1).

Corporate news must be examined for unproved and false assumptions, distorted and omitted facts, while important information is often buried at the bottom of the article — “below the fold” (in the newspaper, pre-computer days’ jargon). Editorial decisions to isolate and emphasize certain facts and establishment funded sources as being reliable creates an acceptable narrative for readers to parrot to their friends while standing around the water-cooler.

The Assault On Ocean Health

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is is one of the world’s leading oceanographic institutes and is located in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA. According to Wikipedia, WHOI is essentially funded by the National Science Foundation, which is itself a US government agency (2).

Woods Hole represents one of the more conscientious branches of the US government, insofar as their monitoring of the health of the world’s oceans provides an incalculable service. Why is it WHOI, essentially representing the US, sounds the clarion call that radiation is continuing to seep into the ocean from the disaster site, instead of the Japanese government? Tepco has no interest in exposing their own incompetence and crimes.

We can assume that WHOI sugar coats their findings and rhetoric unless they want to lose funding since support for nuclear power and weapons enjoys bipartisan support in the US congress. The US military itself dumps more pollution into the Earth’s environment than any other single organized entity (3). You won’t see WHOI writing reports about that any time soon.

Nevertheless, the analysis of one WHOI scientist was enlightening:

[M]arine chemist Ken Buesseler analyzed data made publicly available by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) on radiation levels in fish, shellfish and seaweed collected at ports and inland sites in and around Fukushima Prefecture. The picture he draws from the nearly 9,000 samples describes the complex interplay between radionuclides released from Fukushima and the marine environment…. the vast majority of fish caught off the northeast coast of Japan remain below limits for seafood consumption…. bottom-dwelling fish…consistently show the highest level of contamination by a radioactive isotope of cesium from the damaged nuclear power plant. He also points out that levels of contamination in almost all classifications of fish are not declining, although not all types of fish are showing the same levels, and some are not showing any appreciable contamination. As a result, Buesseler concludes that there may be a continuing source of radionuclides into the ocean, either in the form of low-level leaks from the reactor site itself or contaminated sediment on the seafloor(4).

Crucially, WHOI admits that contaminated ocean fish are evidence of an ongoing problem. Cesium, the main effluent from the site remains a danger for as long as 300 years, but a continuing flow of radiation would lengthen that time frame every single day.

Although Buesseler’s findings were presented by mainstream media as somewhat upsetting news, Buesseler and his team have reported on the hydrological aspects of radioactive discharges since October of 2011. WHOI reported on a variety of avenues by which radioactively contaminated water was reaching the ocean. This could have been, and could still be from, intentional or unintentional releases of water used to cool the melted reactor cores; leaks from the water recycling system; contaminated water that had seeped down to groundwater which then seeped out to the ocean; and so on (5). If this process is ongoing it would easily explain why levels of radiation detected in fish species are not decreasing.

In April of 2012, Tepco claimed that groundwater was seeping from below, upwards into the reactor buildings, becoming contaminated and then seeping back out again. They had plans to use wells in order to direct 1,000 tons of groundwater per day out to the Pacific Ocean so that the water would not become contaminated from the reactors. I have not confirmed whether this operation was ever begun or its progress (6).

Nuclear expert, Arnie Gundersen, believes there is no doubt that Fukushima is continuing to “ooze” radiation into the ocean from water that is used to cool the melted cores, and it is leaking from the basements of the reactor buildings (7). Previously Gundersen stated that “Unit 3 is contaminating Unit 4. They are connected. So we are finding water from Unit 3 leaking into Unit 4 and you know if its leaking between the buildings it’s leaking into the ground next to the buildings too” (8). This water is highly radioactive, measuring approximately a million becquerels per liter. If this is leaking into the ground, it is seeping into the ground water, and then flowing into the ocean. This is not low-level radiation.

Major media reports regarding WHOI research found:

Radioactive cesium levels in most kinds of fish caught off the coast of Fukushima haven’t declined in the year following Japan’s nuclear disaster, a signal that the seafloor or leakage from the damaged reactors must be continuing to contaminate the waters – possibly threatening fisheries for decades….Japanese government data shows that 40 percent of bottom-dwelling fish such as cod, flounder and halibut are above the limit (9).

The safety of fish and other foods from around Fukushima remains a concern among ordinary Japanese, among the world’s highest per capita consumers of seafood…. two greenlings, which are bottom-feeders, had cesium levels of more than 25,000 becquerels per kilogram, 250 times the level the government considers safe…. Hideo Yamazaki, a marine biologist at Kinki University, agrees with Buesseler’s theory that the cesium is leaking from the Fukushima nuclear plant… (10).

Nevertheless, according to Buesseler:

The ‘vast majority’ of fish caught off Japan show no sign of radioactive contamination at levels dangerous to humans…. But close to the plant, an ongoing high level of the reactor byproducts cesium-134 and cesium-137 ‘implies that cesium is still being released to the food chain’…. levels between 1,000 and 10,000 Bq/kg have been found in fish caught off Fukushima (11).

The new website Simply Info has done an excellent job analyzing ongoing trends at the Fukushima disaster site. They note that as far away as the US West Coast:

[a] group of researchers from the Oregon Sea Grant released some of their findings on Pacific albacore tuna. The research group found very small levels of contamination that can be traced back to Fukushima Daiichi…. The albacore tested after Fukushima had 340 – 1024 millibequerels/kg of combined cesium. Millibequerels are a fraction of a bequerel so these findings in the albacore are very small. Fukushima contamination was also not found in all albacore tested, some tested with no Fukushima related contamination…. The albacore news is good and bad. Good that the levels found are so low, bad in that there are still traces being found in fish landed off the US coast (12).

Of course, tuna, being at the top of the aquatic food chain, have long been contaminated from heavy metals such as mercury, the effluent of industrial processes. In the US, tuna consumers are exposed to higher amounts of toxic mercury compared to Europe where restrictions are tighter (13).

Human Health Impact

Simply Info makes the point about the arbitrary “safety limits” for radiation set by authorities, noting that it is “emphasized that levels are low and eating one of these fish would not be lethal. Researchers seem very concerned about inadvertently setting off panic…. The problem comes in when you look at what someone eats in total every day. The single item consumed once may pose limited or no risk but people eat many things. Most people eat at least 3 times a day. If everything you consume has some small amount of contamination it can begin to total a detectable level in the body…. It generally isn’t the single food item that is of concern but the total of all of a person’s food consumption that can begin to be a concern” (Op. cit.).

Establishment sources for information, bought off or bullied by the International Nuclear Criminal Cabal (INCC), exclude a number of concerns regarding low level radiation. They ignore models for protecting public safety such as employing the precautionary principle (14). Even the World Health
Organization– a United Nations body whose hands have been tied by agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency to keep quiet about nuke dangers–historically admitted that “[t]here is no safe low level of radiation” (15). Credit goes to Director-General Margaret Chan for finally speaking out.

In recent times both medical doctors and scientists have estimated that the Fukushima nuclear disaster will cost lives. Dr. Bradford Weeks, MD, stated that “[t]here’s some government studies, which are always underestimated, that there would be 225,000 cases of cancer from [Fukushima]” (16). Another fully credentialed scientist warns that “there are going to be at least tens of thousands and possibly hundreds of thousand or more of people in the future dying of cancer or having children with birth defects, but that once again is all hidden from view” (17).

A Whole Lotta Trouble In The Bubbles

Is Tepco getting a handle on this seemingly insurmountable problem? After all, Humanity put a Man on the Moon, didn’t they?

To stop water from seeping out of the plant, Tokyo Electric is building a 2,400-foot-long wall between the site’s reactors and the ocean. But [Yoshikazu Nagai, a spokesman for Tepco] said the steel-and-concrete wall, which will reach 100 feet underground, will take until mid-2014 to build (“Fish Off Japan’s Coast,” Op. cit.).

Although such a wall might block contaminated water from reaching the ocean, something would still have to be done with the water itself by pumping it through filters and into containers.

The main problem facing Tepco is how to clean and store radioactive water that has been used to cool the melted reactor cores, as the amount accumulates with no end in sight. Either a final resting place for unimaginably huge amounts of water will have to be found, or a means for cleansing the water so that it can be safely discharged into the ocean will have to be invented. Even then, the filters will have accumulated radiation and will have to be stored in the same way that massive amounts of highly radioactive waste is stored.

In the current situation Tepco “is struggling to find space to store tens of thousands of tons of highly contaminated water used to cool the broken reactors. About 200,000 tons of radioactive water — enough to fill more than 50 Olympic-sized swimming pools — are being stored in hundreds of gigantic tanks built around the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant…. TEPCO is close to running a new treatment system that could make the water safe enough to release into the ocean. Outside experts worry that if contaminated water is released, there will be lasting impact on the environment” (18).

Figuring out how to jettison the water may be a priority, given that land, time and space are limited.

Tepco hopes to use “new purifying equipment…that is supposedly able to decontaminate the water by removing strontium and other nuclides, potentially below detectable levels…. Nuclear engineer and college lecturer Masashi Goto said the contaminated water buildup poses a long-term health and environmental threat. He worries that the radioactive water in the basements may already be getting into the underground water system, where it could reach far beyond the plant, possibly the ocean or public water supplies. ‘You never know where it’s leaking out and once it’s out you can never put it back in place…It’s just outrageous and shows how big a disaster the accident is.’”

Goto believes cleaning up the mess will take more than a decade and that “TEPCO’s roadmap for dealing with the problem is ‘wishful thinking…The longer it takes, the more contaminated water they get’” (19). Already 89.2% of water tanks are full and by 2015 even with expanded numbers of storage tanks, they will be full again (20).

Another scheme is to build a huge underground water storage pit. One veteran engineer has criticized the scheme:

Tepco has dug a pit and lined [it] with bentonite and polyethylene seal, and stored water underground, and then cover[ed]. But if there were any earthquake again here, a crack would generate, I guess. And I don’t know why Tepco has decided to make underground [inaudible] for excess water. It can easily be discharged into the underground water [in case of a large earthquake] (21).

Such storage methods are temporary at best (22).

As if Tepco didn’t have its hands full, there is disturbing information from former Prime Minister Naoto Kan that contradicts Tepco’s previously glib statements about the safety of Unit 4. Unit 4 is the reactor building holding tons of highly radioactive fuel rods in its pool on the fourth floor of the building. One of Kan’s engineers has confirmed that since the earthquake the ground underneath Unit 4 has sunk 80 centimeters in an uneven manner. That means the building is gradually tilting and adding to worries of building collapse, either due to ongoing structural stress, or in the case of another major earthquake (23).

Is There A Workable Solution?

We have heard about proposed solutions such as entombing the destroyed reactors in concrete (“Arnold Gundersen with another,” Op. cit.) or pouring borax into the melted cores, which is supposed to neutralize radioactivity (24). I have no idea whether these ideas would work — maybe a combination of approaches would be the solution. A gathering of the world’s most creative-minded scientists and engineers would be a welcome development, and long overdue, considering that Fukushima could continue to irradiate the Pacific Ocean for decades, if not for a long time to come. The pathetic response so far is clear evidence of what can only be called a psychotic dysfunction in the international scientific and policy communities.

When I browse the daily news via the Internet it is obvious that the pace of acceleration of entropic social phenomena is hastening, so that the convergence of technological and economic chaos is caught in a positive feedback loop. One mishap causes another until the dike breaks and the streets are flooded with seawater.

Maybe it is that we have built our technological society on a series of lies, one conveniently and stealthily laid upon another, done so subtly and imperceptibly and over such long periods of time that no one seems to notice. We forgive ourselves for being willing participants. We exist in a system that teaches that resistance is futile and that immoral behavior is normal. Lasha Darkmoon accurately summarizes the situation in Amerika in her essay: “Here Comes Evil”:

It’s only a matter of time before the masses are shaken from their slumber and realize that the world that awaits them is a world under the dominion of evil. Our government is now controlled by a criminal cabal. Our country is a loony bin where the crazies are in charge. Our cities are crime factories. Our banks are run by bandits who steal from the poor. Our schools are production lines for the manufacture of morons. Our places of work are venues of legalized exploitation and servitude. Our news is horror fiction. Our courts are coin-operated machines that crank out injustice. Our laws are dirty jokes. Our heroes are villains. Our celebrities are abominations. Our politicians are psychopaths at large. We live in an America where torture has now been normalized and murder is legal—an Orwellian world too terrifying even for Orwell’s imagination (25).

The breakdown of technocratic systems coincides with social disintegration. During the mid 19th century, French historian, Alexis de Tocqueville, wrote,

America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.

The same moral applies to the modern world.


1. The NYT’s Nuclear ‘Promised Land’

2. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

3. PENTAGON is the Worlds Largest POLLUTER

4. Fishing for Answers off Fukushima

5. Groundwater a likely source for continued flow of radiation into ocean

6. Tepco to dump groundwater from under reactor buildings into ocean


8. Arnold Gundersen with another update on the unfolding effects of the Fukushima disaster

9. Fish Off Japan’s Coast Said to Contain Elevated Levels of Cesium

10. Radiation levels in fish off Japan not declining since nuclear disaster

11. Radioactive levels staying high off Fukushima Daiichi in Japan

12. Fish Sampling Shows Widespread Problems From Nuclear Disaster

13. Mercury Levels in Tuna ‘Higher than Ever’

14. No Safe Dose

15. Radiation Is Always Dangerous

16. Gov’t study estimates 225,000 cases of cancer from Fukushima disaster http://enenews.com/govt-study-estimates-225000-cases-cancer-fukushima-disaster-physician-video

17. Hundreds of thousands or more may die of cancer from Fukushima disaster


19. Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: Plant’s Contaminated Water Storage Running Out Of Space

20. 89.2% of contaminated water tank is full. Newly extended tank will be full by 2016 too

21. Yastel Yamada from the Skilled Veterans Corps for Fukushima (SVCF) Lectures at Chabot College

22. More Water Storage Issues At Fukushima Daiichi

23. Ground underneath Fukushima Unit 4 is sinking

24. Why Underground Entombment At Fukushima Daiichi Won’t Succeed

25. Here Comes Evil

Richard Wilcox has a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from a social science, holistic perspective. He teaches part time at a number of universities in the Tokyo, Japan area. His articles on environmental topics including the Fukushima nuclear disaster have been published at Counterpunch, Global Research, Dissident Voice and Rense.com. His interview with Jeff Rense is available at the website www.rense.com. Many of his articles are archived here: http://environmentalarmageddon.wordpress.com/?s=Richard+Wilcox

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