Anxiety grips the world as Japan readies to release Fukushima radioactive water into the oceans

The treated water has been lying at the Fukushima nuclear power station for many years.
Sejal Sharma
Representational image
Representational image


Japan is facing the ire of the world as it plans to dump treated radioactive water waste into the oceans after getting an official nod from the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog.

The treated water has been lying at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed that the decision is consistent with its safety standards.

One of the greatest nuclear disasters in the world

A massive earthquake struck North-eastern Japan twelve years ago. On March 11, 2011, the country was hit with the most powerful earthquake on record, triggering a tsunami, which then caused a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The catastrophic event has been rated seven on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, the same level as the 1986 Chernobyl accident.

The plan to release the wastewater has been pending for many years now. In 2019, Japan’s environment minister had said that there were “no other options” available to the nation but to release the contaminated water into the ocean as they have a shortage of space, reported CNN.

A report was presented by the IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on Tuesday, July 4. The IAEA said that the water would have a negligible radiological impact on people and the environment.

“The IAEA will continue its impartial, independent, and objective safety review during the discharge phase, including by having a continuous on-site presence and by providing live online monitoring on our website. This will ensure the relevant international safety standards continue to be applied throughout the decades-long process laid out by the Government of Japan and TEPCO,” said Grossi.

Anxiety and worry over releasing the water

It’s only natural that people still have fears over the wastewater since the nuclear disaster basically turned Fukushima into a ghost town. Even though the water will be released slowly over the next couple of decades, there are health risks that just cannot be ignored.

It should also be noted that the IAEA report says that the contaminated water is highly radioactive. It has been collected by TEPCO, which runs the Fukushima nuclear plant, and stored on-site in special tanks to prevent it from reaching the environment in its current state.

TEPCO has built more than 1,000 tanks to contain 1.32 million metric tons of wastewater, reported CNN.

However, as the contaminated water is highly radioactive, the storage of large quantities on site has led to higher doses for workers on site. Hence, it’s imperative that the water be released.

These challenges led TEPCO to develop the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) which is used to remove most of the radioactive contamination from the water and thus reduce the dose to workers from this stored water, said the IAEA report.

“...the IAEA will continue to provide transparency to the international community making it possible for all stakeholders to rely on verified fact and science to inform their understanding of this matter throughout the process,” said Grossi in the report.

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