* Build up of water in storage tanks raises capacity
* Fisheries union: no choice but to agree to groundwater
* Any contaminated leak could end Fukushima fishing industry
* Fishermen request third party checks
(Adds comment from fisheries federation)
By Mari Saito
TOKYO, March 25 Fishermen working near Japan's
destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant agreed on Tuesday to allow the
release of uncontaminated groundwater around the facility into
the ocean, a fisheries union official said, a rare victory for
Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), the operator of
the Fukushima station that suffered triple nuclear meltdowns
after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, is trying to
contain radioactive water at the site. It has lobbied local
fishermen to allow a "groundwater bypass" for nearly two years.
"The final consideration was based on the fact that we
cannot allow them to release contaminated water. We realised
that if the situation continued as it was, the whole system will
fall down," said Kenji Nakada, an official at the Fukushima
"In such a case, the fisheries industry in Fukushima would
be completely finished."
Tepco has built a thousand tanks at the Fukushima plant that
hold more than 431,000 tonnes of radioactive water. Nearly 90
percent of available capacity in the tanks are already filled
with radioactive water.
Contaminated water accumulates at a rate of 400 tonnes a day
at Fukushima as groundwater flows downhill into the destroyed
basements of the reactor buildings and mixes with highly
radioactive water used to cool melted fuel. Radioactive water
poses a long-term risk to the shutdown of the Fukushima Daiichi
station, a task expected to span more than three decades.
Tepco's bypass will release 100 tonnes of groundwater a day
that flows downhill towards the devastated plant and funnel it
to the sea before it reaches the reactor buildings.
Both Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority and the
International Atomic Energy Agency have said controlled release
of low-level water should be considered to make storage space at
the facility for irradiated water.
Local fisheries unions had been bitterly opposed to Tepco's
proposed bypass after irradiated water leaked from tanks that
were just uphill of the proposed groundwater drains last year.
The leaks sparked international alarm and led to a boycott of
Fukushima fish by South Korea.
Last month Tepco found another leak of highly contaminated
water from one of its hastily built tanks at the plant.
A Tepco spokesman said on Tuesday recent tests of
groundwater at Fukushima showed little impact from past tank
As part of its approval of the bypass, local media reported
that fishermen requested a third party organisation to check
radiation levels of groundwater before it is released and any
released water to have less than 1 becquerels per litre of
Cesium-134, a radioactive element that has a half life of around
The legal limit of releasing Cesium-134 into the ocean is 60
becquerels per litre.
A fishing ban along the coast of Fukushima after the nuclear
accident pushed most fishermen out of a job except for
occasional work catching certain types of fish deemed safe.
(Reporting by Mari Saito; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)