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Japan to Release Million Tons of Radioactive Water from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant into the Sea

Posted By : Amol Mishra   |   Date : Apr 16 2021 8:09 AM

Japan to Release Million Tons of Radioactive Water from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant into the Sea

The government of Japan announced on Tuesday that it would soon spill over one million tonnes of radioactive water from the demolished Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea, an act being strongly opposed by environmentalists, neighbouring countries such as South Korea and China as well as by Japan's own fishing industry.

The water disposal process, which will include a rolling filtering and dilution process as well as the expected decommissioning of the plant, will take decades to complete once it is started. The plant’s operator at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc (TEPCO), will treat and dilute the water before pumping it into the Pacific Ocean in around two years.

The Government argued that the hydrogen explosions triggered by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011 destroyed reactor buildings at the Fukushima power plant. The tsunami destroyed the reactor cooling systems, causing three of them to meltdown. The melted reactors were then cooled with over a million tonnes of water.

It specified that the contaminated water is currently being treated with a complex filtration procedure that eliminates the majority of the radioactive elements, but some remain, such as tritium, which is claimed to have toxic effects on human beings only at very high doses.

Tritium is also thought to be relatively safe because it does not emit enough energy to penetrate human skin. According to a 2014 Scientific American article, ingesting it, on the other hand, can raise cancer risks.

The waste is then stored in massive tanks. But according to the operator at TEPCO, it’s running out of space, with the tanks expected to be full by 2022.

According to a Reuters survey, these tanks hold about 1.3 million tonnes of radioactive water, enough to fill 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Is U.S. Backing the Release?

After the meltdown of three reactors a decade ago, Japan has collaborated closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency in its management of the site, according to the US.

In this unusual and difficult situation, Japan has considered the options and consequences, has been open about its decision and appears to have adopted an approach consistent with internationally agreed nuclear safety standards, the U.S. Department of State clarified in a statement on its website.

Reactions to the Release

The government of South Korea expressed grave concerns about possible levels of tritium or other pollutants, by mentioning that the decision may have a direct and indirect effect on the protection of our citizens and the environment. 

It demanded more information from Japan about the expected water release and stated that it would increase its own radiological testing and monitoring.

"It would be difficult to accept if Japan were to release the polluted water without adequate consultations," the government said. China and Taiwan have also shared their dissatisfaction.

For years, Fukushima fishing unions have urged the government not to release the water, claiming that it would have a "catastrophic effect" on the industry.

Greenpeace and other conservation organisations argue that instead of releasing the water into the ocean, the government should instal more reservoirs to store the water outside the facility.

Fukushima - Back in Time!

A 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off Japan's north-eastern coast on March 11, 2011, causing a 15-metre tsunami.

The backup systems to avoid a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant survived the initial quake, but the tsunami caused additional damage.

In the days that followed, the facility's ventilation systems collapsed, releasing tonnes of radioactive material. The meltdown was the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Around 18,500 people died or went missing as a result of the earthquake and tsunami, and over 160,000 people were displaced from their homes.


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