Fukushima Very weakly tritiated water soon to be discharged into

Fukushima: Very weakly tritiated water soon to be discharged into the sea from Japan

ongoing controversy. The effects of the March 11, 2011 tsunami are still being felt in Japan. The Japanese government reconfirmed on Friday that it intends to start discharging contaminated water from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean this year, a locally controversial project that has also been criticized by neighboring countries.

On the site of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (northeast of Japan), whose storage capacities are reaching the saturation limit, more than a million tons of tritium-contaminated water are currently backing up in more than a thousand tanks. Local fishermen fear the operation will have a negative impact on the reputation of their catches among consumers. The project has also been criticized by neighboring countries such as China and South Korea, as well as environmental organizations such as Greenpeace.

A dilution at sea that is already being practiced elsewhere

This project has already received favorable opinions from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which oversees it, and Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Agency last year. The operation, which is set to last for decades, is due to begin “this spring or summer” after a “full report” from the IAEA and the completion and verification of preparations on the ground, the court said on Friday, government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno said. “The entire government will make every effort to ensure safety and take preventive measures against false rumours,” he added.

Tritium is a radionuclide that cannot be treated with currently available technologies. However, its dilution at sea is already being practiced in Japan and abroad by active nuclear facilities.

No danger to humans at low doses

However, the amount of tritium water accumulated at Fukushima is impressive. Because it comes from rain, groundwater, or water injections needed to cool the hearts of several Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors that went into meltdown due to the March 11, 2011 tsunami that hit the plant head-on.

The operator of the plant, Tepco, is building an underwater pipeline about a kilometer long to divert the tritium water further away from the coast. According to experts, tritium is only dangerous for humans in highly concentrated doses, which is ruled out from the outset if it is released at sea over a very long period of time. The IAEA has also already assessed that this project would be carried out “in full compliance with international standards” and would cause “no environmental damage”.