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Fukushima nuclear water plan is a new blow to fishermen

Locals believe livelihoods are at risk as authorities attempt to tackle
contamination 12 years on from the disaster. The authorities are about to
begin pumping contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant
into the Pacific Ocean.

More than a million tons of water will be released
into the sea over the next thirty years. The waste water will be treated
and diluted to remove most radioactive contaminants, but will still contain
traces of the isotopes, tritium and carbon-14.

The governments of China,
South Korea and Pacific island nations have protested against the decision.
But none are affected more directly than the fishermen of Fukushima. Twelve
years after the catastrophe, there is no clear timeline for the
decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi, which is decades away from being
safely dismantled.

In the meantime, 130 tons of water is contaminated by it
every day. Some of this is poured directly onto the broken reactors to cool
them. Much is natural ground water which flows through the earth towards
the sea, picking up radiation from the exposed reactors on the way.

To prevent the groundwater reaching the plant in the first place, the
authorities built an underground “ice wall” of frozen earth, but this
has been only partly effective. Filtering is supposed to remove all the
radioactive elements except for tritium, which is routinely released into
the sea in diluted form from nuclear plants around the world

. But carbon-14
and trace elements of more dangerous radioactive substances, including
strontium-90 and iodine-129, have also been detected in the water. The
Japanese government says that tritium will be diluted to less than one-40th
of the concentration permitted under Japanese safety standards and
one-seventh of the World Health Organisation’s permitted level for safe
drinking water.

According to Tepco, the radiation in the tritium in the
water amounts to some 860 trillion becquerels — less than half the 1,620
trillion becquerels released from Britain’s Sellafield plant in 2015. The
theory is that the water will quickly and harmlessly dissipate into the
vastness of the Pacific Ocean.

But environmentalists and some scientists
disagree. The US National Association of Marine Laboratories claims that
the statistics, assumptions and models used in the Tepco projections are
flawed. It points to the danger of concentrated clusters of radiation
accumulating on the ocean floor.

Shaun Burnie, a nuclear expert at
Greenpeace, says that the water should be stored longer in tanks, allowing
time for the tritium to reduce, and that the decision to release into the
ocean is as much as about saving money as science. It also gives an
illusion of concrete progress.

Even if it is safe, it makes little
difference to the fishermen of Soma, for whom even just the perception of a
danger is enough to harm their business. Among them opinion is divided.
Some oppose the release under any circumstances; others, including Konno,
reluctantly accept it as the least worst option given that only complete
decommissioning, decades in the future, will solve the problem.

Times 10th March 2023


March 12, 2023 - Posted by | Fukushima continuing, oceans, opposition to nuclear

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