Japan Considering Dumping Radioactive Water into the Sea, Minister Says

The energy company says it will run out of space to store the contaminated water by 2022.

Japan’s environment minister revealed on Tuesday that Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) might have to dump radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean from its destroyed Fukushima nuclear power station.

The energy company is running out of room to store it. 

RELATED: JAPAN CONSIDERS DISPOSING OF OVER 1 MILLION METRIC TONS OF RADIOACTIVE WATER FROM THE FUKUSHIMA PLANT INTO THE PACIFIC 

Over 1 million tonnes of contaminated water

Tepco now has more than 1 million tonnes of contaminated water from the cooling pipes used to keep fuel cores from melting after a tsunami struck the nuclear plant in March 2011.

“The only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it,” the environment minister, Yoshiaki Harada, told a news briefing in Tokyo. “The whole of the government will discuss this, but I would like to offer my simple opinion.”

But not all agree with Harada. 

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga referred to the minister's comments as “his personal opinion.”

Meanwhile, authorities await a report from an expert panel before making a final decision. It hasn't been revealed how much water would need to be dumped into the ocean.

However, Tepco is expected to run out of space to store the contaminated water by 2022. Tepco has tried to remove most radionuclides from the excess water.

Japan Considering Dumping Radioactive Water into the Sea, Minister Says
The aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Source: RyuSeungil/iStock

Dealing with tritium

Unfortunately, the technology does not exist to rid the water of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Water that contains tritium is often dumped into the ocean by coastal nuclear plants.

Disposing of the wastewater into the sea is certain to anger local fishermen who have spent the last eight years rebuilding their industry. In addition, South Korea has also complained about the ways it may affect the reputation of its seafood.

In the meantime, Japan is under intense pressure to address the contaminated water problem before Tokyo hosts the Olympic and Paralympic games.

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