Fukushima water stokes fresh fears for fisherman

STORY: Rows upon rows of water tanks...

still surround the reactors at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant...

...with enough water to fill 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The debate over what to do with it - and alarmist talk about radiation -

- remain a headache for those in Fukushima trying to recover from the 2011 disaster.

The water was used to cool the reactors down...

...after a tsunami crashed into the plant, setting off explosions and meltdowns.

Now, Tokyo Electric Power Co or Tepco, which runs the power station,

wants to start releasing the water into the sea, potentially as early as this Spring.

Tepco and the government say it is safe: treated, filtered, and diluted.

But it does contains traces of tritium, an isotope considered relatively harmless.

Local fishermen aren't happy about that.

They fear it could still affect the reputation of their industry which is only just recovering from the disaster.

Haruo Ono has been catching flounder, crab and sea bass in the area for fifty years,

the third generation of his family to make a living at sea.

He claims there's been insufficient communication about Tepco's plan.

"I think it's still too early to release the (treated) water into the ocean. It's too soon. I'd understand if they discussed it with everyone beforehand, but they haven't talked about it yet, and they shouldn't just go ahead and release it into the sea."

Officials say the tanks have to be removed for reconstruction.

To prove how safe the water is, Tepco has been raising flounder in tanks at the plant.

They broadcast live feeds of the fish on a Tepco YouTube channel.

One Tepco official who spoke to Reuters said they hope it shows the water is safe.

"Here at the marine organism breeding test station, we raise flounder and abalone with seawater containing treated water and ordinary seawater. I think we are able to show that there is no change in how they are growing and the tritium concentration in their bodies."

The release has also been approved by the international atomic energy regulator, the IAEA.

But Ono, and other fishermen like him, aren't convinced.

He says, at 71, he will keep working at sea until he dies,

but he worries about what's next for the ocean -- and his line of work.

"I can't recommend to my grandchildren to become fishermen. We just don't know what's going to happen in the future."