A fish with radiation levels more than 2,500 times the allowed maximum was caught this week in the waters off Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant.
The discovery, which comes just weeks before the two-year anniversary of the nuclear disaster, has sparked considerable concern about the safety of the local food supply.
This fish, caught off the waters of Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant, has radiation levels more than 2,500 times the allowed maximum. (Image: Lemonde.fr)
The fish (above) is a murasoi, which typically lives in shallow waters near reefs in the region. When this one was caught and tested by the Tokyo Electric Power Company the results were astounding.
The maximum level of radiation allowed in foods for human consumption is 100 becquerels/kilogram. The murasoi caught inside the 20 kilometer area near the plant -- which is closed to humans -- registered 254,000 becquerels cesium/kilogram. Again, that's 2,500 times higher than the government-imposed limit. It is also 10 times higher than the radiation measured last August in scorpion fish caught near Fukushima.
Curiously, the murasoi specimen caught near Fukushima did not seem to show any major abnormalities in terms of its physical appearance. Here is what a typical, non-radioactive murasoi looks like:
(We may have been expecting something more like the three-eyed "Blinky" that Bart Simpson caught near the Springfield nuclear power plant on "The Simpsons.")
Image: 20th Century Fox Television
Scientists in the region are worried that other fish in the area are feeding off these and other contaminated species. TEPCO is installing a new series of nets beneath the surface of the water around the 20 kilometer perimeter in hopes of restricting the migration of the fish (and radiation) outside of the region.
If you are wondering about the term "becquerel" used to measure the radiation in the fish, so were we. Here's your radiation fact of the day, from the Health Physics Society (www.hps.org):
Becquerel (BQ)The unit of radioactive decay equal to one disintegration per second. The Becquerel is the basic unit of radioactivity used in the international system of radiation units, referred to as the “SI” units. 37 billion (3.7×1010) becquerels = 1 curie (Ci).