Japan will release more than 1 million metric tons of treated, radioactive wastewater from the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean, officials announced Tuesday. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the sewage will be released on Thursday, if the authorities encounter no obstacles. Over the past two years, plans to release the wastewater have come under fire from Japan’s local fishing industry, environmental activists and Chinese officials.
It may sound like a disastrous idea to release radioactive sewage into the ocean, however United nations He signed on to the plan. Here is everything you need to know.
What happened in Fukushima?
In March 2011, Japan was hit by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, and the tremors were so strong that they forced the earth off its axis. Huge waves, about three stories high, made landfall 10 to 30 minutes after the earthquake. While some emergency protections were in place, the power plant was flooded, resulting in a nuclear meltdown. As radiation leaked from the destroyed station, the authorities created a no-go zone 470,000 people had to evacuate. It is considered the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986, when an explosion there destroyed a reactor, emitting large amounts of radiation into the atmosphere.
Why is water released?
Over the past 12 years, the plant has accumulated 1.34 million tons of polluted water and storage space is slowly running out. The water was used to cool reactors that were damaged during the tsunami. As part of the plant shutdown process, water must be released to prevent any accidental leakage. Polluted water will only be released after heavy filtration. It would take more than 30 years for it to be fully released.
Read more on Yahoo News:
Reuters: South Korea does not see any scientific problem with the Fukushima water release plan
Sky News: It’s safe to release nuclear waste from Fukushima – but it has destroyed fishermen’s livelihoods
Reuters: Hong Kong will ban some Japanese seafood from August 24
Is it safe?
The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency concluded on Monday that Japan’s plans to release treated radioactive water met international safety standards. In the aftermath of the IAEA report, Japan’s industry minister was forced to deny allegations that his government had put pressure on IAEA officials to produce a positive result.
How far will the water travel?
The softened water will be released about half a mile off the coast of Japan through an underground tunnel. It is not known how far it will travel once unloaded into the ocean.
Why were there objections?
Although the release is scientifically safe, there is an ongoing concern about tritium levels in contaminated water. Tritium, which is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, is carcinogenic in high concentrations. However, the water that is released into the ocean will be diluted and filtered with very low levels of tritium in it. This is standard practice for nuclear plants around the world, including the United States
With the public backlash over radioactivity strong, Japan’s fisheries chief told Kishida on Monday that although the sewage was safe, it would not stop the “reputational damage” of fishing groups across the country. In reaction to Tuesday’s news, Hong Kong, Japan’s second-largest market, banned seafood imports due to food safety concerns. The ban is set to begin on Thursday. Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee called the release “irresponsible” and said he opposed “impossible risks to food safety, irreparable pollution and destruction of the marine environment”.
South Korea said that while it “does not necessarily agree with or support the plan,” it did not find any “scientific or technical problems” with the release. It, along with China, also banned imports from fisheries located near the Fukushima plant. In the lead-up to the release, the South Koreans stockpiled sea salt and other goods due to safety concerns.