Release contaminated Fukushima water into sea: Japan panel

James Marshall
February 3, 2020

A Japanese government expert panel has agreed to a plan to reduce the amount of radioactive wastewater stored at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, by releasing it into the sea or the air. The proposal in coming weeks will be submitted to the government for further discussion to decide when and how the water should be released.

'Compared to evaporation, ocean release can be done more securely, ' the committee said, pointing to common practice around the world where normally operating nuclear stations release water that contains tritium into the sea.

Storage tanks for radioactive water at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant on January 29.

It is meant to solve a growing problem for the plant operator who is stuck between limited water storage space and an imminent impact from the public and possibly neighboring countries.

A Japanese government panel on Friday said that releasing the sea in massive amounts of radioactive water now stored at the tsunami-destroyed nuclear power plant was the safer, more viable method.

Addressing the possible social effects of the two options, the panel accepted that vaporized water in the atmosphere would greatly expand the geographic and industrial range of businesses possibly affected by negative publicity. But tritium and some other substances are left in the treated water, and the amount stored has reached about 1.2 million tons in nearly 1,000 tanks.

In Friday's proposal, the ministry said the controlled release to the sea is superior because its traveling route is predictable and easier to sample and monitor.

This method could be carried out "with more certainty", it said, because the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., already carried out the process, albeit on a much smaller scale, prior to the powerful natural disaster and tsunami that triggered the triple meltdown at the Fukushima plant in March 2011.

The report acknowledges that the release of water would be harmful to industries that, despite careful security controls, are still reluctant for consumers. It promised to strengthen the monitoring of tritium levels and food safety controls to address safety concerns.

The build-up of contaminated water at Fukushima has been a sticking point in the clean-up of the area that was devastated by a 2011 tsunami that followed a large 9.1 magnitude off the north-east coast of Tokyo.

The report ruled out long-term storage outside the plant - a method favored by many Fukushima residents.

That capacity is expected to be reached in summer 2022 as water still has to be pumped into the nuclear reactors to cool the melted nuclear fuel produced by a triple meltdown triggered by the 2011 quake and tsunami disaster.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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