Japan to release Fukushima radioactive water starting Thursday

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced plans to release the water despite international opposition.
Sejal Sharma
Soil sample of Fukushima nuclear accident
Soil sample of Fukushima nuclear accident

Wikimedia Commons 

Despite international and domestic objections, Japan will release the treated radioactive wastewater from TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the ocean on August 25.

In an essential part of the decommissioning process of the damaged plant, 1 million metric tonnes of water has been filtered and is safe to be released into the ocean. The plan, announced by Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday, has been the center of controversy because the treated water contains tritium.

Tritium – the main cause of concern

Tritium is a radioactive substance – a relatively weak source of beta radiation. Although it is too weak to penetrate the skin, it can increase the risk of cancer if consumed in extremely large quantities. Tritium cannot be removed by the facility’s filtration technology and can enter the body through inhalation, ingestion, or absorption through the skin.

That water will contain about 190 becquerels of tritium per liter, which is below the World Health Organisation’s drinking limit of 10,000 becquerels per liter, as per a report by Reuters. A becquerel is one unit of radioactivity.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had undertaken an independent safety review of Japan’s implementation of its policy against the international safety standards and said that the impact it would have on people and the environment was "negligible."

The nuclear watchdog has said that it will keep an eye on the Japanese government’s plans before, during, and after the discharge of the treated water.

The water will be released in batches, with the first batch being released on Thursday with a total of 7,800 cubic meters over the next 17 days, said Tepco at a briefing on Tuesday.

TEPCO developed the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) to remove most of the radioactive contamination from the water.

As stated in Reuters, Japanese broadcaster FNN had conducted a survey in which 56% said they supported the release of the treated water while 37% opposed the release.

Fishing industry in murky waters

The biggest opposition comes from the fishing industry, saying that this could impact their reputation and livelihood. PM Kishida met with Masanobu Sakamoto, the head of the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations, and attempted to reassure the fishing communities that the discharge was safe. Ahead of the meeting, Sakamoto said his group’s opposition to the plan had “not changed one bit,” reported The Guardian.

According to the Reuters report, the first test results after the discharge in the seawater will be available at the start of September this year. Japan will also test fish in the waters near the plant and make the test results available on the agriculture ministry's website.

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