Japan to Begin Releasing Water From Fukushima Nuclear Plant Into Pacific Ocean
Japan announced Tuesday that it would begin releasing treated, diluted radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant as early as Aug. 24. The plan is to release the water into the Pacific Ocean over the course of 30 years.
As Reuters reported, the first release set for Thursday will include about 7,800 cubic meters of water and will take course over about 17 days.
“I expect the water release to start on August 24, weather conditions permitting,” Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida said, as Reuters reported.
Japan and The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plant operator, will test the ocean water and marine life and share results online, The Associated Press reported. The first results are expected sometime in September.
The plan was first approved two years ago, and the government has said that the water release is necessary in decommissioning the nuclear power plant. But the plan has come with a lot of opposition from nearby countries and the local fishing industry. According to The Associated Press, Hong Kong and Macau have banned products from 10 prefectures following the announcement to begin the water release. China has increased radiation testing on products from fisheries in Japan.
Even with filtering the water, the BBC reported that the water still contains radioactive substances, including tritium and carbon-14. The plan received a greenlight from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in July. TEPCO said that the water will contain about 190 becquerels of tritium per liter, which is within the 10,000 becquerels per liter limit set by the World Health Organization.
While some scientists say the plan to treat and dilute the water is safe, others say there needs to be more consideration of long-term impacts of the planned release.
“As long as the discharge is carried out as planned, radiation doses to people will be vanishingly small — more than a thousand times less than doses we all get from natural radiation every year,” Jim Smith, a professor of environmental science at the University of Portsmouth, told the BBC.
In 2019, then-environmental minister Shinjiro Koizumi called for a shutdown of all nuclear reactors in Japan following the Fukushima disaster. But opponents have said nuclear energy is needed to meet the country’s energy and climate goals.
The power plant, which was destroyed in 2011 by an earthquake and tsunami, has around 1.34 million metric tons of water to be released. The contaminated water was used to cool the nuclear reactors amid the disaster, but former environmental minister for Japan Yoshiaki Harada said in 2019 that the plant’s operator had run out of space to store the water.