Japan recently announced its plans to dump wastewater from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the ocean, raising concerns about the safety of the operation. Here is everything you need to know about dumping, water treatment and the various issues involved.
Every day, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant collects about 100,000 liters (26,500 gallons) of contaminated water, which includes water used to cool the reactors as well as groundwater and seepage rain. Currently, about 1.34 million tons of this water is stored in a thousand steel containers at the site, leaving no room for further storage. Japan has therefore decided to dump about 500,000 liters per day into the sea through a one-kilometer-long pipe.
According to TEPCO, which operates the nuclear power plant, a special ALPS filtration system was used to remove all radioactive elements except tritium from the water. The water was also diluted to reduce radioactivity to 1,500 becquerels per liter (Bq/L), well below the national safety standard of 60,000 Bq/L.
Nuclear experts say the level of tritium in the released water is well below the World Health Organization’s drinking water limit of 10,000 Bq/L. Tony Hooker of the University of Adelaide emphasized that tritium is routinely released from nuclear power plants around the world with no obvious adverse environmental or health effects. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has also confirmed that the release meets international standards and will not harm the environment.
However, not everyone agrees with the decision. Greenpeace criticized the filtration technology used, saying that it was flawed and that the IAEA ignored the ongoing contamination of groundwater with highly radioactive fuel residue. Some Fukushima residents and environmental activists argue that dumping the water into the sea will have global repercussions and accuse Japan of deliberately spreading radioactive elements.
China has accused Japan of treating the Pacific Ocean as a “sewer” and has banned food imports from 10 Japanese prefectures. South Korea has expressed no official objections, but many residents are alarmed and have staged demonstrations. Japan’s fishing industry is also concerned about the possible negative impact on seafood exports, as consumers and governments may avoid Japanese seafood due to radiation concerns.
Efforts to address concerns
The Japanese government is making efforts to alleviate concerns by organizing study tours to Fukushima and broadcasting live videos of fish living in the wastewater. Tokyo is also combating misinformation on the Internet, including doctored old photos and allegations of IAEA bribery, which Japan denies.
Releasing the wastewater is a significant step, but the bigger challenge remains removing radioactive debris and highly dangerous nuclear fuel from the three reactors where the 2011 accident occurred. This process is fraught with great risks and difficulties.
In conclusion, Japan’s decision to discharge wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the ocean has raised various concerns and controversies. Although experts and international organizations assure that the discharged water meets safety standards, it is opposed by environmental activists, representatives of neighboring countries and local industries. Attention must now focus on addressing these concerns and the more difficult task of removing radioactive debris and fuel from the damaged reactors.