Japan Begins Releasing Fukushima Waste Into Ocean

(RightWing.org) – In March 2011, a powerful earthquake and tsunami caused the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (FDNPS) on the northeastern coast of Japan. The plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), continues its work to fully decommission the facility.

On Thursday, August 24, officials started releasing treated water into the Pacific Ocean. The Japanese government and TEPCO executives estimate it will take about 30 years to completely remove the roughly one million tons of water remaining at the Fukushima Daiichi facility.

Decontaminating Fukushima Reactor Water

Japanese officials treated the water using a pumping and filtration method called the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS). The decontamination process uses a series of chemically induced reactions to remove 62 radioactive nuclides from contaminated water.

However, the process cannot remove tritium since the radio-nitrate is an isotope of hydrogen with similar characteristics to the ordinary element contained in water. TEPCO spokesperson Keisuke Matsuo told reporters that tests of samples from the first batch of release waters registered radiation levels below 1,500 becquerels per liter. The national safety standard mandates 60,000 bq/L or less.

IAEA Reviews the Release of Water From Fukushima Nuclear Facility

In 2021, the Japanese government asked the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an autonomous organization within the United Nations, to formally review its comprehensive water discharge plan.

The head of that organization appointed an international task force comprised of scientists from the IAEA’s Secretariat to study Japan’s plan. The group included experts from the United States, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, France, China, and six other countries.

In July 2023, the IAEA released a comprehensive report detailing its safety review of the ALPS-treated water remaining at the FDNPS. In short, the task force concluded that releasing the treated water would have a “negligible radiological impact” on the environment and humans. The group also determined that TEPCO’s plan satisfied the “relevant international safety standards.

The IAEA and its task force will maintain an onsight presence of scientists at the FDNPS to monitor the upcoming releases of ALPS-treated water into the ocean. That group of experts will release real-time and near-real-time monitoring data from the site for use by the global community. The IAEA plans to take measures to provide additional reassurance, transparency, and compliance with international safety standards by TEPCO, as needed.

Objections to the Release of Contaminated Water From Japanese Nuclear Plant

Nevertheless, Chinese customs officials decided to ban seafood imports from Fukushima. The country’s foreign ministry said the decision to release the water was an “extremely selfish and irresponsible act.” It also accused Japan of “passing an open wound onto… future generations.”

However, the BBC reported analysts say that China’s reaction to the water’s release was motivated by politics as well as genuine concerns about public safety. Likewise, The Guardian reported that scientists say China’s nuclear power plants discharge wastewater with higher levels of tritium than the ALPS-treated water released from the FDNPS.

Japanese Prime Minister and the Nation’s Fishing Industry

Fukushima’s fishing industry objects to the treated water’s release. Mainland China and Hong Kong collectively import about half of Japan’s seafood exports annually, or roughly $1.1 billion.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida recently met with National Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations members. He promised the government would purchase any seafood they can’t sell and earmark taxpayer funds to rebut any disinformation distributed about their products.

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