Tokyo Electric Power Co., known as Tepco, collected water – equivalent to about 500 Olympic swimming pools – in more than 1,000 metal tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. But he says he is running out of space to build more tanks and will start releasing water in the Pacific Ocean in two years, in a process that should take two to three decades.
“Disposal of treated water is an unavoidable problem in decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi plant,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Tuesday, adding that the authorities will ensure that safety standards are exceeded and that measures are taken. to avoid damage to reputation.
The plan to release the water infuriated the Fukushima fishing community, only now recovering after the nuclear disaster and subsequent contamination. The industry fears that, even if the water is safe, its discharge into the ocean could undermine confidence in the region’s production.
“To see this decision being made is completely outrageous and is something that we cannot accept in any way. We will protest strongly, ”said Hiroshi Kishi, president of JF Zengyoren, the national federation of Japanese fishing cooperatives, in a statement.
Tepco President Tomoaki Kobayakawa told Japanese media that the company “would do its best” to avoid damaging its reputation as a result of the dismissal and compensating all those affected.
The government and Tepco say there is a strong scientific reason make sure that the ocean discharge is safe.
The water has already been or will be cleaned with an advanced treatment system, known as ALPS, to remove almost all radionuclides, including strontium and cesium.
What would be left is tritium – a natural hydrogen isotope that is much less dangerous to human health and is routinely released into the ocean by nuclear power plants – and traces of carbon-14, a radioactive isotope of carbon, which would be so small for not pose a significant risk, says the government.
If all treated water were released into the sea over the course of a year – instead of decades – the impact of radiation on the local population would be no more than a thousandth of the impact of exposure to natural radiation in Japan, says the government.
O IAEA says the release of the water is “technically feasible” and has offered to provide independent radiation monitoring to reassure the public.
The United States supported Japan’s decision, but China and South Korea were dissatisfied.
“In this unique and challenging situation, Japan weighed options and effects, was transparent about its decision and appears to have taken an approach in line with globally accepted nuclear safety standards,” said the State Department in a statement.
On Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China expressed its strong opposition to the impending decision, noting the opposition within Japan and concerns about the impact on the health of the Chinese people. He said he had expressed his “grave concern” through diplomatic channels.
“Now the eyes of the world are on Japan. You can’t turn a deaf ear to that. The stakes are really high, ”spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a statement. “The Japanese side must act responsibly for global public interests and the interests of its own people.”
South Korea has also expressed “serious concerns” about the safety of its people and the indirect and direct environmental impact.
“We are going to strongly demand concrete measures from Japan for the safety of our people and the prevention of damage to the maritime environment,” Koo Yun-cheol of the South Korean government told reporters, who chaired an emergency meeting on the matter on Tuesday. fair.
Greenpeace, which opposes nuclear power, also condemned the decision, which it said disrespected the rights and interests of people in Fukushima, Japan and the Asia-Pacific region.
“In the 21st century, when the planet and in particular the world’s oceans are facing so many challenges and threats, it is an outrage that the Japanese government and Tepco think they can justify the deliberate dumping of nuclear waste into the Pacific Ocean,” Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International said in a statement.
Internally, the government of Japan and Tepco faced public distrust for their way of dealing with the Fukushima disaster and its aftermath. Both were slow to admit that three of the reactor cores had collapsed and were criticized for minimizing the bad news.
For years, Tepco claimed that the treated water stored at the plant contained only tritium, but data on its website showed that the treatment process failed to remove many dangerous radionuclides, in part due to the need to process large amounts of water quickly after the accident. .
Finally, in 2018, it recognized that 70 percent of the water is still contaminated with dangerous radioactive elements – including strontium-90, a radionuclide that can cause cancer – and will have to be treated again before it is released.