Nuclear contamination threatens seawaters

BEIJING – China’s seawaters are at risk of being contaminated by radioactive materials coming from the Japanese nuclear power plant that was seriously damaged in the large earthquake that struck in March, China’s ocean watchdog said.

The State Oceanic Administration’s environmental protection department told China Daily that China will strengthen its monitoring for radioactive substances in the waters east of Fukushima, where the nuclear plant is, and in the East China Sea. By doing so, they hope to forecast what effect the radiation released by the plant will have on the marine environment and the safety of marine food.

The latest monitoring result released by the State Oceanic Administration on July 29 showed the first group of seawater samples collected from the area contained 300 times the amount of radioactive cesium that is found in nature and 100 times the amount of strontium.

The quality of the water and air in China haven’t been affected so far by the radiation, the department said.

From June 16 to July 4, the administration sent a supervision team to look for radioactive materials in the waters east of Fukushima. They monitored an area encompassing 252,000 square kilometers, collecting large amounts of water, air and marine organisms during that time.

The test results will be gradually made public, according to the State Oceanic Administration.

In April, Tokyo Electric Power Co, the owner of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, announced plans to discharge about 11,500 tons of low-level radioactive water from the plant into the sea.

About 60,000 tons of water have been used to lower the temperature of the six reactors at the plant. The March earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused some of the plant’s reactor cores to melt down after fuel rods there had become overheated, according to the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Update Log that was released by the International Atomic Energy Agency on April 11.

The State Oceanic Administration said the marine organisms in the places that are being monitored have been contaminated to different extents. Those that live near the surface are at a greater risk of being affected.

Cesium-137 and strontium-90 both have half-lives of about 30 years, making it more likely they will eventually enter the food chain and affect the health of consumers, the environmental protection department said.

Researchers will continue to try to protect public health by monitoring and gauging the effect of the radiation release on China’s marine environment, according to the department.

China Daily

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