The clean-up of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Number One has reached the stage where disposal of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean has been scheduled to occur in the next few years. Japan’s neighbours, including China and South Korea, have voiced concerns alongside the local fishing community.
After the devastating earthquake off the east coast of Japan in 2011, Fukushima’s Nuclear Power Plant Number One suffered significant damage. Several of the reactors suffered major damage and after venting air from within to release pressure, the affected reactors had to be shut down permanently.
It was announced today that water, which at one point amounted to 300 tonnes per day, collected after being used to cool the power plant’s stricken reactors is going to be released into the Pacific Ocean. Officials from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the Japanese government assert that water scheduled for release is safe.
The issue of what to do with waste water collected during the decontamination process rages on, appearing to revolve around the radioactive isotope Tritium, which cannot be removed during the purification process. Although there are scientists who believe this rare and radioactive isotope of hydrogen to be of low impact, there are others that insist the dangers are currently underestimated and Tritium could pose a risk to the environment for the next century.
“The Japanese government has compiled basic policies to release the processed water into the ocean, after ensuring the safety levels of the water”, said Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Japan’s neighbour’s, however, believe the release of the waste water, even after treatment, could have negative effects on the environment for years to come.
However, Japan has gained support for its transparency, with Anthony Blinken, secretary of state for the United States of America thanking Japan for their continued efforts. “We thank Japan for its transparent efforts in its decision to dispose of the treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi site. We look forward to the Government of Japan’s continued coordination with the [IAEA]” – said Blinken via Twitter.
The difficult job of cleaning up one of the most harmful environmental disasters of the 21st century continues apace.