TOKYO – Workers at Japan’s tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant today finally stemmed a tide of radiation that was pouring into the Pacific and exacerbating concerns over the safety of seafood, the operator said.
High levels of contamination have been measured at the shoreline of the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex in recent days, prompting the government to set limits for the first time on the amount of radiation permitted in fish.
While officials have said the crack in a maintenance pit plugged early today was the only one found, they have not explicitly ruled out that radioactive water is leaking into the sea from another point.
“Right now, just because the leak has stopped, we are not relieved yet,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano. “We are checking whether the leak has completely stopped, or whether there may be other leaks.”
Authorities insisted the radioactive water would dissipate and posed no immediate threat to sea creatures or people who might eat them. Most experts agreed.
Still, Japanese officials adopted the new standards as a precaution. And the mere suggestion that seafood from the country that gave the world sushi could be at any risk stirred worries throughout the fishing industry.
“Even if the government says the fish is safe, people won’t want to buy seafood from Fukushima,” says Ichiro Yamagata, a fisherman who lived in the shadow of the power plant. “We probably can’t fish there for several years.”
Fukushima is not a major fishing region, and no fishing is allowed in the direct vicinity of the plant. But experts estimate the coastal areas hit by the massive wave last month account for about a fifth of Japan’s annual catch.