BEIJING, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Chinese sea waters are at risk of being contaminated by radioactive effluents from Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant, which was crippled by the March 11 earthquake, China's ocean watchdog warned.
China will increase monitoring for radioactive substances in the waters off Fukushima and in the East China Sea, with the aim of forecasting possible effects on the environment and the safety of marine food, said the State Oceanic Administration's environmental department, China Daily newspaper reported Tuesday.
The department's most recent monitoring report indicated that seawater samples from the first group collected contained 300 times the amount of radioactive cesium found in nature and 100 times the amount of strontium.
Since Cesium-137 and Strontium-90 both have half-lives of about 30 years, they are more likely to eventually enter the food chain and affect the health of consumers, the department said.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the stricken Fukushima plant, in April announced plans to discharge about 11,500 tons of low-level radioactive water from the plant into the sea.
On Monday, the Japanese Cabinet agreed to merge the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and the Nuclear Safety Commission into a single Nuclear Safety Agency, putting the environment ministry in charge of regulating the nuclear sector.
Previously, NISA operated under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
The move is seen as a significant victory for Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan who has been fighting to remove nuclear regulation from the influence of METI, which has a long history of promoting nuclear energy.
The new entity, expected to be fully operational by next April, will be responsible for handling other nuclear-related activities, including emergency response, radiation monitoring and dealing with the threat of nuclear terrorist attacks, China's state-run news agency Xinhua reports.
Japan's environment ministry will "make every effort to restore trust in the administration of nuclear safety," said Environment Minister Satsuki Eda.
NISA had come under fire for its sluggish and ineffectual response to the March 11 quake-triggered Fukushima plant crisis, the world's worst nuclear disaster in 25 years.
NISA faces allegations of soliciting pro-nuclear individuals to attend government-sponsored symposiums on nuclear energy and also arranging for pro-nuclear residents to pose planted questions.
Along with TEPCO, Japanese nuclear power operators Chubu Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co. have been implicated in cases of government and industry attempts to influence public opinion on nuclear power.