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Fishermen approve TEPCO subdrain plan

July 28, 2015


Fukushima fishermen OK TEPCO plan to release decontaminated water into sea


Fishermen approve TEPCO subdrain plan


SOMA, Fukushima Prefecture--Fishermen in northern Fukushima Prefecture gave Tokyo Electric Power Co. the green light on July 27 to release radioactive groundwater from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the ocean after it undergoes decontamination treatment.

The Soma-Futaba fisheries cooperative association approved TEPCO’s “subdrain plan” at a board member meeting after earlier approval by the Iwaki fisheries union, which brings together fishermen operating on the southern Fukushima coast, to back the plant operator’s plan.

After the decisions by the two fisheries unions, the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations is expected to formally approve the subdrain plan in mid-August at the earliest.

To deal with the accumulation of contaminated groundwater at the plant, TEPCO and the central government implemented from May last year a “groundwater bypass” that intercepts clean groundwater before it flows into contaminated reactor buildings and reroutes it safely around the facility into the ocean.

Under the subdrain plan, the utility will pump 500 tons of water from 41 subdrain wells around the premises of the plant’s four crippled reactors each day. It expects that the amount of groundwater flowing into the reactor buildings will be drastically reduced, and the amount of contaminated water generated at the plant will be halved from the current levels.

The water will be released into the sea after it undergoes decontamination treatment to reduce cesium levels to below 1 becquerel and beta ray-emitting radioactive materials to less than 3 becquerels.

Because the decontamination equipment cannot remove tritium, water contaminated with the radioactive isotope that emits 1,500 becquerels or more of radiation will not be released into the sea.

TEPCO has sought the fisheries cooperatives’ approval of the subdrain plan.

But TEPCO’s delay in disclosing the flow of radioactive water into the ocean whenever it rained--which came to light in February--hampered negotiations with the fisheries unions, which felt the incident undermined their confidence in the utility.

At the meeting of the board members of the Soma-Futaba fisheries union, TEPCO officials explained that the subdrain plan was essential in reducing the flow of contaminated water into the ocean, according to Hiroyuki Sato, the union president.

The members who had remained strongly opposed eventually recognized the need for the subdrain plan and agreed to approve it, Sato said.

Based on requests from the two local fisheries cooperatives, the prefectural federation of fisheries unions will demand that TEPCO and the central government conduct periodic checks on waters emitted from the subdrain program.

The prefectural union will also request that a third-party watchdog monitor the process to prevent contaminated water from flowing into the ocean.

It will also request that TEPCO and the government to continue to provide compensation to local fishermen, while taking effective measures when the subdrain project causes harmful rumors about their products.



Fukushima fisheries co-ops approve TEPCO's contaminated water 'subdrain plan'
Fishermen approve TEPCO subdrain plan

TEPCO's sub-drain plan (Mainichi)

Click to enlarge


FUKUSHIMA -- Local fisheries cooperatives have approved of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s "subdrain plan" at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant whereby radioactively contaminated groundwater goes through a purification unit and is released to the sea as they have no better options to speed up the recovery of the local fishing industry.

"We are compelled to agree (with TEPCO's plan) for the recovery of the fishing business in Fukushima Prefecture," Hiroyuki Sato, 59, head of Soma-Futaba fisheries cooperative association told reporters after a board meeting on July 27 in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture. He looked relieved to have achieved consensus among association board members to approve the subdrain plan. Sato, along with the cooperative's other senior officials, have grown distrustful of TEPCO and the government after a series of incidents of contaminated water leaking into the sea. However, they judged that delaying making a decision on the matter would not provide them with another option.

TEPCO and the government have explained the subdrain system to Fukushima fisheries cooperatives as one of the best solutions for controlling the contaminated water leak.

There are three fisheries cooperative associations in Fukushima Prefecture -- Soma-Futaba and Iwaki that mainly operate coastal fishing and Onahama trawl fishery engaged in distant ocean fishing. Senior officials from TEPCO and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry have been visiting these cooperatives since this past spring to apologize for a series of contaminated water mishaps.

If the subdrain system is utilized, it will not only reduce the amount of groundwater flowing into nuclear reactor buildings, but is also expected to stop contaminated water leaking into the harbor with seaside barriers surrounding No. 1 to No. 4 reactor buildings. TEPCO asked for understanding of the subdrain system from the cooperatives, explaining that unless the seaside barriers are closed at an early stage, over 300 metric tons of contaminated water will flow into the sea every day.

A sense of crisis among the fisheries cooperatives has driven them to approve the subdrain plan. The number of Soma-Futaba and Iwaki cooperative members fell after the March 2011 disaster. Soma-Futaba cooperative saw its membership drop from 1,119 to 947 and Iwaki from 433 to 362 in four years.

Furthermore, the fish haul from test fishing carried out about twice a week off the coast outside the 20-kilometer no-go zone around the nuclear plant totals less than 10 percent of the pre-disaster level for both cooperatives. Soma-Futaba head Sato began telling people close to him around May this year that he couldn't face his son who had succeeded his fishing business after the disaster.

The Iwaki fisheries cooperative, which announced approval of the subdrain plan earlier than Soma-Futaba, shares a sense of crisis for the Fukushima fishing industry. Cooperative chief Masakazu Yabuki, 79, says the early start of full operations is crucial to keep Iwaki's fishing industry alive. He added that the decision to accept the subdrain plan shows how desperate local fishermen are, saying, "We just have to trust the government and TEPCO."

Those belonging to the Ukedo and Tomikuma branches of the Soma-Futaba cooperative resisted the TEPCO plan until the very end. These fishermen worked in coastal areas such as Namie, Futaba and Tomioka, located within the 20-kilometer zone, but they scattered to remote locations after the disaster. Test fishing operations are not being carried out in these areas, and local fishermen have no prospects of restarting their businesses.

Soma-Futaba's Sato announced on July 27 that he began negotiating with Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations Chairman Tetsu Nozaki to expand the areas where test fishing can be operated. Sato said he persuaded the two branches by telling them that the seaside barriers need to be shut as early as possible for the expansion of test fishing.

Meanwhile, some fishermen are concerned about opposite effects of TEPCO's subdrain plan regarding damage by harmful rumors. Takehiko Niizuma, a 54-year-old trawler fisherman and a member of the Iwaki fisheries cooperative, remained suspicious, saying, "The plan could give the government and TEPCO excuses that even highly contaminated water (stored in tanks) can be released into the sea if it's processed or treated through the subdrain system."

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