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Radioactive Fish in Japan

Fish caught in the waters around the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan could be too radioactive to eat for a decade, as samples show that radioactivity levels in that part of the ocean remain elevated and show little sign of coming down.

Cod, flounder, halibut, pollock, skate and sole could be off limits for years, since large and bottom-dwelling species carry most risk. Sample fish caught in waters near the melted reactors show that there is still a source of caesium leaking into the ocean, either on the seafloor or still being discharged into the sea, perhaps from what is left of the cooling waters.

In the Guardian, Fiona Harvey quotes Woods Hole researcher Ken Buesseler as saying, "These fish could have to be banned for a long time. The most surprising thing for me was that the levels [of radioactivity] in the fish were not going down. There should have been much lower numbers." This is especially tough for an island nation like Japan, which relies on fish for a major part of its diet.

As of April 2012, fish can only be sold in Japan if it contains less than 100 becquerels of caesium 134 and 137 per kilogram of wet weight, down from a previous limit of 500 becquerels.

Harvey quotes Buessler as saying, "This is not lethal--I'm not trying to be alarmist, but the levels [of radioactivity in the fish] are measurable and consistent. It's a small increase in risk."

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