Japan May Dump Radioactive Water From Damaged Fukushima Reactor Into The Pacific Ocean

The operator of the badly damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), says that it will have to dump tons of radioactive water from the plant into the Pacific Ocean because it has run out of room to store it, according to Japan Today:

“TEPCO has collected more than 1 million tons of contaminated water from the cooling pipes used to keep fuel cores from melting since the plant was crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

“‘The only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it,’ (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.'”

Eight years ago, an earthquake and tsunami triggered Japan’s worst nuclear disaster in its history. Since then, TEPCO has been pumping water into the reactor in order to cool the nuclear fuel rods.

Minister Haranda didn’t say exactly how much water would be dumped into the ocean, but was quickly rebuffed by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who noted that Haranda’s comments were “his personal opinion,” adding:

“There is no fact that the method of disposal of contaminated water has been decided. The government would like to make a decision after making thorough discussion.”

The other options for dealing with the contaminated are to store it on land or vaporize it.

If the Japanese government does choose to dump the water into the Pacific, that could anger its neighbors, EcoWatch reports:

“Last month, South Korea’s government minister for environmental affairs, Kwon Se-jung, summoned Tomofumi Nishinaga, head of economic affairs at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, how the Fukushima water would be handled, according to CNN.

“‘The South Korean government is well aware of the impact of the treatment of the contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant on the health and safety of the people of both countries, and to the entire nation,’ said a South Korean ministry press release.”

Such a move could also be problematic as Japan will host the 2020 Olympics and Special Olympics. When it submitted its bid for the 2020 games, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured the Olympic Committee that any waste or contamination from the Fukushima reactor was under control. Now, however, the government is facing what to do with the radioactive water before Olympic athletes arrive for competition.

The Japanese government has already spent $320 million to construct an underground barrier for the purpose of preventing groundwater from seeping into the three nuclear reactors. But that project hasn’t been completely successful, according to The Guardian:

“The wall, however, has succeeded only in reducing the flow of groundwater from about 500 tonnes a day to about 100 tonnes a day.”

Also, studies conducted on diluting the radioactive water from Fukushima have suggested such a plan may be more difficult than first expected:

“One recent study by Hiroshi Miyano, who heads a committee studying the decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi at the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, said it could take 17 years to discharge the treated water after it has been diluted to reduce radioactive substances to levels that meet the plant’s safety standards.”

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Andrew Bradford

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