Japan will soon unleash radioactive water from Fukushima into the sea. How concerned ought we to be?
Following clearance from the United Nations’ nuclear inspector for a contentious plan that comes 12 years after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, Japan will soon start discharging treated radioactive water into the ocean. The environment minister stated in 2019 that there were “no other options” as space to contain the tainted material runs out. The idea to release purified wastewater has been in the works for years
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, came in Japan on Tuesday to tour Fukushima and provide Prime Minister Fumio Kishida the IAEA’s safety assessment.
However, the UN’s approval hasn’t done much to calm alarmed citizens of the surrounding nations or local fishermen who are still suffering the effects of the 2011 disaster.
To See Japan Fukushima Plant Viedo
The IAEA’s conclusions have been questioned by some, with China most recently claiming that the organization’s evaluation “is not proof of the legality and legitimacy” of the wastewater release from Fukushima.
What you should know is as follows.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), a state-owned energy provider, has constructed more than 1,000 enormous tanks to hold the 1.32 million metric tonnes of wastewater that are currently present — enough to fill more than 500 Olympic swimming pools.
But there isn’t much room left. The corporation claims that adding more tanks is not an option and that in order to safely decommission the plant, which entails decontaminating buildings, demolishing structures, and completely shutting down operations, space must be made available.
What dangers exist?
Some hazardous substances are present in radioactive wastewater, but most of these can be eliminated from the water, according to TEPCO.
The main problem is a non-removable hydrogen isotope called radioactive tritium. The technology to do so is not yet accessible.
The polluted water, according to the IAEA and the Japanese government, will be gently discharged over decades and will be much diluted.
According to them, this means that the concentration of tritium discharged would be on par with or less than the amount other nations permit and would comply with all applicable international safety and environmental rules.
Tritium occurs naturally in the environment, including rain, sea water, tap water, and even the human body, according to TEPCO, the Japanese government, and the IAEA. Therefore, releasing modest amounts into the sea should be safe.
According to Grossi’s statement in the IAEA study, treating water for discharge into the ocean will have “negligible radiological impact on people and the environment.”
Experts disagree on the risk that this presents, though.
Tritium is too weak to penetrate skin, according to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, but if taken in “extremely large quantities,” it can raise cancer risk. While stating that “any exposure to radiation could pose some health risks,” the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission also stated that “everyone is exposed to small amounts of tritium every day.”
One of a group of international scientists working with the Pacific Island Forum to evaluate the wastewater release plan includes Robert H. Richmond, director of the Kewalo Marine Laboratory at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. This work includes visits to the Fukushima site and meetings with TEPCO, Japanese authorities, and the IAEA. Richmond analysed the plan’s specifics and deemed it “ill-advised” and “premature.”
One worry is that the wastewater’s influence on marine life would not be sufficiently mitigated by diluting it. Tritium is one example of a pollutant that can flow through different organisms in the food chain, such as bacteria, plants, and animals, and then be “bioaccumulated,” or built up in the marine ecosystem, according to him.
He continued by saying that pollution, overfishing, ocean acidification, and climate change are already putting stress on the world’s oceans. It should not be considered as a “dumping ground,” he declared.
Additionally, the dangers could spread outside the Asia-Pacific region. According to a 2012 study, bluefin tuna may have travelled from Fukushima to California carrying radionuclides, which are radioactive isotopes similar to those found in nuclear waste.
The water will be released in what way?
The wastewater will first undergo treatment to remove all reusable hazardous components. After being placed in tanks, the water is next analysed to determine how radioactive it still is; according to TEPCO, a large portion of it will undergo a second round of treatment.
After that, the effluent will be diluted to 1,500 becquerels of tritium (a measure of radioactivity) per litre of pure water.
Comparatively, Japan’s legal limit permits no more than 60,000 becquerels per litre. The US sets a limit of 740 becquerel per litre, which is more conservative than the 10,000 allowed by the World Health Organisation.
The diluted water will then be discharged into the Pacific Ocean through an undersea conduit off the coast. The discharge will be watched over both during and after its release by other parties, including the IAEA.
According to Grossi in the study, “this will ensure that the pertinent international safety standards continue to be applied throughout the decades-long process laid out by the government of Japan and TEPCO.”
Follow More Information