Not 178 workers, as TEPCO, the bailed out and now partially state-controlled owner of the nuke had said, but 1,973 workers, as the Asahi Shimbun has “learned.”
Despite its erstwhile omniscience and omnipotence, TEPCO has been publically baffled by an endless series of mishaps, surprises, and occurrences that left it mostly helpless. For example, in mid-March, it disclosed that a month earlier (!), a greenling with 740,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram had been caught near the plant. That’s 7,400 times the government’s food safety limit, highest ever measured by TEPCO’s testing program. The prior record-breaking TEPCO fish had 510,000 becquerels. And they’re all part of the food chain.
Then, early last week, researchers determined that several Japanese sea bass caught off the coast of Hitachi, a city about 60 miles south of the plant – halfway toward Tokyo – had radioactive cesium levels of 1,037 becquerels per kilogram, over ten times the government’s food safety limit. It was the first time since April 2011 that such high levels of contamination had been found in that region. The researchers claimed they had no clue why this mega-dose was now showing up again, over two years after the accident.
Alas, cesium-134 and cesium-137 in groundwater at the plant suddenly started soaring in early July. When measured on July 8, levels were 90 times higher than those found on July 5 and reached 200 times the legal limit for groundwater. TEPCO was baffled. “It is unclear whether the radioactive water is leaking into the sea,” a company official said.
On June 19, TEPCO had already admitted that groundwater contamination of highly toxic, radioactive strontium-90, a by-product of the fission of uranium and plutonium, had increased by more than 100 times between December and May; and that the level of radioactive tritium, a somewhat less harmful substance, had increased by 17 times. And when the cesium levels were spiking in early July, it admitted in the same breath that tritium levels in seawater had soared to 2,300 becquerels per liter, the highest ever detected, and more than double the contamination measured two weeks earlier.]