The controversial plan to release Fukushima plant’s wastewater

Twelve years after the nuclear devastation triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami, workers at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in northeastern Japan prepare to release treated wastewater into the ocean.

Operator TEPCO says the water has been filtered to remove most radioactive elements, and calls the release both safe and necessary, but there has been domestic and international opposition.

Why is there a need to release water? ,

The site produces 100,000 liters (3,500 cubic feet) of contaminated water per day. This is a combination of groundwater, rainwater that seeps into the area, and water used for cooling.

The water is filtered to remove most radionuclides, and as of February over 1.32 million tonnes of treated water was being stored at the site.


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This is 96 per cent of storage capacity, so TEPCO is keen to start releasing water soon.

Under a plan approved by the central government, the process is expected to begin this spring or summer.

– Is it safe? ,

TEPCO says several filtering systems, including at its ALPS facility, remove most of the 62 radioactive elements in the water, including cesium and strontium, but tritium remains.

Experts say tritium is harmful to humans only in large amounts, and TEPCO plans to dilute the water to reduce the level of radioactivity to 1,500 becquerels per litre, well above the national safety standard of 60,000 becquerels per litre. quite low.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has stated that the release meets international standards and “will not cause any harm to the environment”.

The release has been strongly opposed by activist groups such as Greenpeace and some local residents, as well as neighboring countries including China and South Korea.

Local fishermen fear the release will once again make consumers wary of buying their catch.

“We have suffered reputational damage since the disaster, and we will start again from zero,” 43-year-old fisherman Masahiro Ishibashi told AFP.

– How will the water be released? ,

The operator has been building more filtering facilities on shore and a kilometer-long (0.6-mile) underwater pipe to release the treated water over several decades.

“We don’t plan to release all of the water at once, it will be a maximum of 500 tonnes of ALPS-treated water for a total of 1.37 million tonnes,” TEPCO official Kenichi Takahara told AFP.

“It will take 30 to 40 years, the time required to decommission the plant.”

The operator will cap the amount of radioactivity released from the tritium at 22 trillion becquerels per year, which is the national annual standard for wastewater prior to the accident.

– What’s the reaction? ,

Japanese diplomats are informing surrounding countries about the plan, and TEPCO is meeting with local residents to drum up support.

His latest project involves keeping fish in treated water.

Kazuo Yamanaka, in charge of the test, said, “Fish kept in Alps-treated water … ingest tritium to some extent. But once the animal is transferred to normal seawater, the tritium levels in the fish drop.” diminishes rapidly.” ,

He keeps hundreds of flatfish and other sea creatures in several tanks at the plant, half with ordinary seawater and the other with treated wastewater, diluted to the same level of liquid that will be discharged.

He runs a live stream of the fish on YouTube, and plans to expand the trials to seaweed.

“When we talked to local residents, they said they wanted to see fish living healthfully in Alps-treated water,” he said.

“They said they would feel more confident when they saw it rather than seeing data and numbers.”

It is unclear whether TEPCO’s efforts can win over fishing communities that are still struggling to recover from the disaster.

Ishibashi said, “I don’t think the fish in Fukushima will really recover until the nuclear plant is shut down.”



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