Fish with deadly levels of radioactive cesium have been caught just off the coast of Fukushima prefecture, as scientists continue to assess the damage caused to the marine food chain by the 2011 nuclear disaster.
One of the samples of the 37 black sea bream specimens caught some 37 kilometers south of the crippled power plant tested at 12,400 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium, making it 124 times deadlier than the threshold considered safe for human consumption, Japan's Fisheries Research Agency announced.
The samples were caught at the mouth of the Niidagawa river in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, on November 17. Two other fish caught there also tested non-safe for human consumption, showing radiations levels of 426 and 197 becquerels per kilogram. The rest of the fish were reportedly within safety limits.
Black sea bream are currently restricted from being fished in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures and sold for human consumption, as scientists from the Fisheries Research Agency say they plan to investigate the source of the contamination further.
After the Fukushima disaster, Japan lowered its threshold for cesium levels in food from 500 becquerels per kg to 100 becquerels per kilo, making the country’s regulations six times stricter than European Union standards. The record cesium reading was recorded last year when a fish caught near the plant carried 740,000 becquerels of cesium per kilogram
Professor Chris Busby from the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk and a member of the UK Department of Health Committee Examining Radiation Risk for Internal Emitters (CERRIE), says that despite a high level of radiation in the marine food chain, Japan so far is the only one dealing with a direct threat.
“The concentrations of radionuclides, which are going to the Pacific or have been injected to the Pacific, by the time they get to the US, and to China and to South East Korea and so on will not be enormously high,” Busby told Voice of Russia.
Yet the scientist warned that nuclear contamination of Japan could result in 400-800 extra cancer cases in Japan in the next fifty years.
“We've already seen some effects in infant mortality and thyroid cancer in Japan,” Busby said. “So I think this is just going to get worse. I think we are going to see a major effect on the general health of the Japanese population in Northern Japan. There's going to be a decrease in the birth rate and an increase in the death rate.”
In the meantime, TEPCO, the operator of the Fukushima nuclear site, reported radiation levels 8 times government safety guidelines. TEPCO told press that the predominant reason behind the sharp increase in radiation at the plant was X-rays coming from storage tanks holding radioactive water that has been leaking from the Fukushima facility.