Monday, November 27, 2017, 6:14 PM – In March 2011, a powerful earthquake and tsunami crippled Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, leading to the eventual meltdown of three of its six nuclear reactors.
Today, contaminated water continues to leak into the Pacific Ocean.
More than a million tonnes of radioactive water is currently being stored at the plant’s power station in 900 tanks, and officials aren’t sure how to dispose of it. Waste continues to accumulate at the plant at a rate of 150 tonnes a day.
The plant’s reactors can’t be repaired but cooling water needs to pump constantly to prevent overheating. That water becomes radioactive. It then leaks out of the damaged chambers, ending up in the power station.
Multiple news outlets say the government is being advised to slowly leak the contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean. That’s alarmed local fishermen, who are struggling with a stigma about Fukushima’s water.
Tests have shown the majority of fish caught near the plant are now safe to eat, but consumers remain hesitant. Local fishermen say the release of radioactive water could kill what’s left of the fishing industry in that region.
The stored water remains a huge safety risk in its current state. Should another earthquake or tsunami hit it could spill, uncontrolled, into the ocean.
The water has been treated and all radioactive elements, except for tritium, have been removed. Experts say tritrium is safe if released in small, controlled amounts. It’s been suggested the water be diluted and released in 400 tonne daily increments over the course of a decade. Others have proposed moving the tanks into storage and delaying the release until 2023, when half of the tritrium in the water will have dissolved naturally.
But before the water is released, experts are urging the government to address public concerns.
“A release only based on scientific safety, without addressing the public’s concerns, cannot be tolerated in a democratic society,” Naoya Sekiya, an expert on disaster information and social psychology at the University of Tokyo, told Japan Times.
“A release when people are unprepared would only make things worse.”
In 2016, officials activated a controversial ice wall in an effort to prevent groundwater from mixing with the polluted cooling water.
Japan’s nuclear watchdog, NRA, concluded the wall isn’t effectively diverting the water.
Officials haven’t announced when they’ll finalize their decision.