Fukushima fishermen appear to have finally run out of patience with Tokyo Electric Power Co.
They lambasted TEPCO at a meeting on Feb. 25 over the utility’s failure for half a year to disclose the flow into the ocean of water contaminated with radioactive materials from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“This is a situation that will shake our relationship of trust with TEPCO,” Tetsu Nozaki, head of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations, told reporters after the meeting.
Nozaki indicated that further negotiations would be put on hold concerning part of TEPCO’s overall strategy of decommissioning the reactors at the plant.
Fukushima fishermen have repeatedly expressed anger and frustration at TEPCO’s plans, mishaps and belated disclosures in its handling of huge volumes of contaminated water generated daily and stored on the grounds of the crippled plant.
The Feb. 25 meeting of chairmen of local fisheries cooperatives was initially called to discuss TEPCO’s “subdrain plan” to pump up groundwater in the vicinity of reactor and other buildings at the Fukushima No. 1 plant site. The water would be decontaminated and released into the ocean.
Discussions on that plan were shelved as TEPCO officials spent most of the meeting being bombarded by angry remarks from the fishermen.
TEPCO officials started the meeting by apologizing for not releasing information about higher concentrations of radioactive materials in water flowing along a drainage ditch whenever it rained.
TEPCO officials released the information on Feb. 24.
Fishermen at the meeting demanded to know why TEPCO did not immediately disclose that information. Some accused TEPCO of a cover-up.
Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori also expressed anger at TEPCO at a meeting of prefectural government and other high-ranking officials the same day.
“It is extremely regrettable that it failed to expediently release the information and also because the fundamental point of thoroughly holding such a stance (of releasing information) was not in place,” Uchibori said.
Central government officials did not appear as concerned as the Fukushima officials or the fishermen.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga noted that concentrations of radioactive materials in seawater into which the contaminated water flowed were low.
“The effects of contaminated water on the ocean outside of the harbor have been completely blocked,” Suga said at his Feb. 25 news conference. “The situation is under control.”
However, the Nuclear Regulation Authority was also not informed about the detection of higher levels of radioactive materials until a few days ago.
“Anything that affects the environment should be announced as soon as possible,” NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka told reporters on Feb. 25.
TEPCO has been criticized in the past for failing to release information about the analysis of radioactive materials and the flow of contaminated water into the ocean.
Company officials had been considering the subdrain plan for some time as a measure to deal with the increasing volume of contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 plant site. The subdrain plan was only made known to local fishermen in August 2014.