Japan To Release Fukushima Waters
The Japanese government have just announced plans to release over one million tonnes of contaminated water back into the seas, to strong opposition from locals as well as worldwide government officials.
In particular, neighbours of Japan, including China and South Korea have condemned the move. Environmental activists and representatives from the fishing industry are also said to fiercely oppose the release of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. The latter have been lobbying the Japanese government for many years, with unions arguing that the move would have a “catastrophic impact” on the fishing industry.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has released a statement on their website. In it, they declare that the move would “seriously damage international public health and safety, and the vital interests of people in neighbouring countries” and calls the plan “extremely irresponsible”.
Tokyo Electric Power, who will be in charge of handling the process, are also in charge of the plant. They are expected to begin discharging the water in 2023 “in line with international standards and regulations”. According to World Nuclear News, the “contaminated water is treated by the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), which removes most of the radioactive contamination, with the exception of tritium”. The full report of which can be read in the basic policy released by Japan’s Ministry for Economy, Trade and Industry.
Why Are Japan Releasing Contaminated Waters Into The Ocean?
According to the document, the current tanks which hold the contaminated water are said to be a risk themselves, stating that the risk of “disaster may increase along with long-term storage”, which would lead to another emergency evacuation and potentially further long-term damage. Another option would be to continually transfer these to new tanks – but the same problem would arise again, over time.
The water inside the tanks, which currently equates to roughly 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools, has previously been treated. However, there is still the presence of some harmful isotopes. As such, the liquid would need to be treated again, before being released into the seas. Unfortunately, even with further filtration, the radioactive isotope of tritium is too difficult to separate from the water and only diluting the remaining liquids could help.
While the proposed dilution would be 1500 becquerels per litre (which goes beyond the World Health Organisation’s standard for drinking water, by one-seventh), there is understandable concern from countries across the world, as well as industries tied closely to the area and potentially affected areas.
Statements From Around The World About Japan’s Move To Release Contaminated Fukushima Waters
The US Department of State said in a statement: “Japan has weighed the options and effects, has been transparent about its decision, and appears to have adopted an approach in accordance with globally accepted nuclear safety standards.”
South Korea has expressed “serious concerns that the decision could bring a direct and indirect impact on the safety of our people and surrounding environment”, adding it would be taking more care and more frequent radiological measuring, to monitor the situation.
The decision comes just three months ahead of the planned Tokyo Olympics, with some events planned to go ahead within 35 miles of the Fukushima Plant.