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EDITORIAL: TEPCO must be candid on plan to discharge “tainted” water into ocean

Tainted, what an euphemism!

Storage tanks at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant hold tons of radiation-contaminated water.

August 17, 2022

Radiation-contaminated water is still being produced in the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Progress is being made on the government’s plan to release treated water into the ocean, and local governments have approved the construction of pertinent facilities.

However, local opposition to the project remains fierce, particularly from the fisheries industry.

The central government and TEPCO must spare no effort to thoroughly explain the project to the parties concerned, as well as to the rest of the nation and the world.

At the crippled plant, groundwater is continuing to mix into cooling water for melted nuclear fuel, raising the volume of radiation-contaminated water by about 130 tons a day.

The contaminated water is treated to remove most of its radioactive content and is kept in storage tanks.

But with the existing tanks now nearly full, the government decided in spring last year to dilute the stored water with seawater and discharge it into the sea, fearing that building more storage tanks could affect post-disaster recovery work.

TEPCO is currently proceeding with preparations for the offshore discharge about 1 kilometer from the plant.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority approved the plan last month, saying it saw no safety issues.

NRA Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa told a news conference, “While I recognize opposition to the plan, the offshore discharge (of treated water) cannot be avoided if we are to proceed with the decommissioning of reactors.”

Residual tritium in the treated water is released into the sea by active nuclear power stations in and outside Japan.

The government’s plan is to dilute the tritium content to less than one-40th of the national standard, and keep the annual release volume below the pre-accident level.

The International Atomic Energy Agency noted in its report in April to the effect that the radiological impact on the public was expected to be very low and significantly below the level set by the Japanese regulatory body.  

The Fukushima prefectural government and the municipal governments of Okuma and Futaba–which co-host the Fukushima No. 1 plant–approved the construction of discharge facilities in early August.

Two days later, TEPCO advanced the project to the phase of actual construction of an undersea tunnel through which the treated water will be released into the ocean.

But the local fisheries industry and other opponents of the project are not yielding an inch. They claim that even though the radiation level is below the required safety standard, anything that is being discharged from the crippled plant cannot be considered completely safe and can cause damage due to rumors or misinformation.

In fact, when the NRA solicited opinions from the public, all sorts of questions and negative comments were sent in.

In 2015, the government and TEPCO promised the fishing industry that “no treated water will ever be discharged without the understanding of the parties concerned.” This is the kind of promise they must not be allowed to renege on.

TEPCO says that it fully understands the “importance of explaining everything thoroughly” and will provide information on its official website. Of course, the company must be completely open and be willing to answer questions.

But its trustworthiness is suspect, as the utility proceeded with its tunnel construction project as soon as it was approved by the local governments.

If TEPCO genuinely wants the understanding of the parties concerned, it must listen directly to people’s questions and opposing views and strive to keep up the conversation. 

As if causing an unprecedented nuclear disaster at Fukushima wasn’t bad enough, the damage compensations that TEPCO made to victims were hardly generous, and the company even kept up wrongful practices at its other nuclear power stations.

Unless TEPCO makes every imaginable effort, we doubt it will ever be able to build a relationship of trust with local communities.

It is time for the utility’s president and top executives to consider holding candid, face-to-face meetings with fisheries industry representatives and local residents.


August 21, 2022 - Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , ,

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