TEPCO’s success in sealing the water leak from the concrete pit did appear to be making a difference in radiation levels near Fukushima. On Wednesday, a seawater sample taken from about 360 yards offshore contained about 280 times the legal limit of radiation. Previous samples from the same point had contained upwards of 4,000 times the legal radiation level.
TEPCO workers had been sure that the hole they plugged was a major problem. Tracer coloring dropped in the water of the concrete pit had shown up offshore.
The irony of the situation is that while stemming one source of water radioactivity, TEPCO was actively opening the spigot on another. With the approval of Japan’s government, TEPCO is pumping into the ocean about 10,000 tons of water from Fukushima’s radioactive waste treatment plant and 1,500 tons of water from the drain pits of reactors No. 5 and No. 6, according to a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The water being released has about 100 times the legal limit of radiation. Since the legal limit is quite low, the released water would be a health concern for local residents only if they ate seaweed and seafood from the affected area every day for a year, said the IAEA.
In past weeks, there have been so many reports of different radiation readings in different places from the sea and in the air around Fukushima that many Japanese – and Americans – are confused about whether the surrounding environment is safe.