The Japanese government may soon decide to release polluted water from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant offshore, according to numerous Japanese media outlets. Japanese Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama has denied that any final decision has yet been made, but he said on Friday that the government will have to act on the issue soon.
“Deactivation of the Fukushima Daiichi plant is a key premise for a restoration in Fukushima from the nuclear disaster,” Kajiyama told a news conference Friday. “To prevent any delays in the decommissioning process, we need to make a decision quickly.”
Ever since a powerful earthquake and tsunami led to a meltdown in three reactor units at the Fukushima power plant, clean-up efforts have progressed slowly. Radioactive fuel waste remains at the bottom of all three reactor units flooded with water. and groundwater infiltration creates a continuous supply of wastewater. In order to prevent the release of this polluted water from the site into the surrounding environment, the Tepco operator constantly pumps it, treats it and stores it. Tepco filters about 60 toxic or radioactive contaminants before storage, but has not been able to remove radioactive tritium (hydrogen-3).
Despite extensive efforts to reduce the rate at which the country produces wastewater, their accumulation has been a major challenge throughout the cleanup. Tepco is currently processing about 170 tons of new wastewater per day, adding a reserve of about 1.2 million tonnes currently stored to 1,000 steel tanks. He expects the chambers to be finished by mid-2022.
Wastewater treatment tanks treated, Fukushima (Tepco) response site
To prevent this problem, the Japanese government periodically proposes the release of sewage into the sea. In September 2019 and again in February 2020, Japanese officials warned that the space available for storing more water was running out and that a decision was needed. It is a long process, and experts estimate that if regulatory requirements for dilution are maintained, it may take a decade or more to complete.
There is a serious economic and political concern behind this plan. The release of radioactive material as a result of the thaw and the first years of cleanup created an image problem for fishing in Fukushima, and the Japanese fishing industry has vehemently opposed proposals to release sewage from the country – whether safe or not.
“We strongly oppose a release of polluted water into the ocean as it would clearly cause damage to reputation,” Toshihito Ono, a representative for fish wholesalers in Fukushima, told CNN in February.
“We are horrified that if even one fish is found to have exceeded safety standards once the treated water is released, people’s trust in us will fall,” a local fisherman told Kyodo News this week.
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