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Japan tries to dilute tritium danger

September 11, 2018
TEPCO could dump radioactive water into ocean any day. Help stop it!
From various correspondents
More than one million tonnes of radioactively contaminated water has already accumulated at the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant site, stored in steel tanks and increasing in volume daily — by some accounts one new tank is added every four days. Space to store it is rapidly running out. So far, the only “plan” TEPCO has come up with to deal with the problem is to dump the water into the Pacific Ocean.
The water is accumulating in part because about 150 tonnes of groundwater seeps daily through cracks in the stricken reactors’ foundations, thereby becoming contaminated with radioactive isotopes. In addition, water flows down the surrounding hillsides onto the site, picks up radiation, and must be captured and stored on site.
TEPCO has so far been pumping the contaminated water through a filtering system that can only remove cesium and strontium. But the process creates a highly toxic sludge as a byproduct, which also has to be stored in sealed canisters on site.
Tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, cannot of course be removed from water. Hence the plan to dump the radioactive (tritiated) water into the ocean. This move has long been strongly opposed by people from many spectra in Japan. A “Resolution Against the Ocean Dumping of Radioactive Tritium-contaminated Waste Water From the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant,” initiated by physics Professor Emeritus at Kyoto University, Kosaku Yamada, has already garnered signatures from 280 individuals and 35 organizations. The Resolution is reproduced below.
The goal of the resolution is to raise public awareness about the prolonged serious health effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster that the Japanese government is taking every step to conceal.
Now, the organizers are calling on the international community to sign on as well. You can do so by sending your contact details directly to Professor Yamada at:
A Resolution Against the Ocean Dumping of Radioactive Tritium-contaminated Waste Water From the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant
It was announced in March, 2014, that in the defunct Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant there was a total of approximately 3,400 trillion becquerels of tritium, with 830 trillion becquerels stored in tanks. This enormous amount of radioactive waste water has still continued to increase since then. In these circumstances, the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Ltd. (TEPCO), in their efforts to find an easy way to dispose of the tritium-contaminated waste water created by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, have been trying to dilute and dump it into the ocean. They have been watching for an unguarded moment among the opposition movements including the fishery cooperatives who are strongly against the dumping. Now they are about to finally decide to implement the ocean dumping plan. Far from regulating such activities, Toyoshi Fuketa, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority, has been championing this plan.
We are determined that the Japanese government and TEPCO shall never dump the radioactive waste water into the ocean for the following reasons:
1. Generally misunderstood as posing little risk to life and health, tritium is an extremely hazardous radioactive material. This is because organisms are not able to chemically distinguish tritium water from the normal water which composes most of the human body. This means that tritium can invade any part of the human body, irradiating it from inside; therefore, tritium can damage cell membranes and mitochondria in cells, indirectly through reactive oxygen species (ROS) and other radicals generated in irradiation. Tritium decay can directly cut chemical bonds of genomes or DNA strands. The risk peculiar to tritium is that if some hydrogen atoms which make up the genomes are replaced with tritium, the beta decay of the tritium into helium will cut off the chemical bonds of the genome.
Plants produce starch from water and carbon dioxide gas by using photosynthesis. Some of the hydrogen atoms in this starch can be replaced with tritium, forming organic tritium, which animals, plants and human beings absorb into their bodies over the long term, causing internal radiation.
2. With reference to the tritium released by various nuclear facilities, reports indicate a number of findings including: an increased incidence of leukemia among those living around the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant; an increased incidence of infant leukemia around nuclear reprocessing plants all over the world; and an increased incidence of child cancers around nuclear power plants. Real damage has already occurred.
3. Tritium, even if diluted and dumped into the ocean, will become concentrated again through aspects of the ecosystem such as food chains. Furthermore, tritium will vaporize into tritium-containing moisture or hydrogen gas, only to return to the land and eventually circulate within the environment. The idea that dilution ensures safety has caused fatal blunders to be repeated in many environmental pollution cases in the past, the vital factor being the total quantity released into the environment.  Therefore, as far as environmental pollution problems are concerned, the only righteous and principled policy is to thoroughly confine and isolate radioactive materials or toxic substances from the ecosystem.
As tritium has a long half-life of 12 years, it destroys the environment over the long term.  Tritium is an isotope of hydrogen which constitutes not only most of the living body but also its genes, so tritium disposal via dilution cannot be safe. Thus, we strongly urge the Japanese government and the Nuclear Regulatory Authority never to dump tritium into the ocean.



September 17, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

What is tritium and why is its disposal difficult?

Another propaganda piece to justify Tepco and Japanese goverment’s decision to dump the 7 years plus accumulated radioactive water into the sea. Mind you in that water it is not only tritium but other types of harmful radionuclides are present.
Look how they phrased their B.S. :
1. “water containing tritium” used when talking about the treatment of contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO).” Of course not mentioning the other contained radionuclides, lying by omission!!!
2. “Tritium emits beta radiation that has weak energy, and will mostly pass through the body if drank. Its effects on the human body are said to be minimal compared to radioactive cesium.” Said to be, does not mean it to be true!!!
In this July 17, 2018 file photo, tanks containing water contaminated with radioactive materials are seen on the grounds of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture
September 6, 2018
The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about the characteristics of tritium, and why it is hard to dispose of water containing the radioactive element.
Question: I heard the term “water containing tritium” used when talking about the treatment of contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO).
Answer: It refers to treated water including tritium. The element cannot be removed using the current purification method used at the crippled nuclear power plant. The government and TEPCO are considering ways to dispose of the liquid, which is continuing to fill waste water tanks at the plant.
Q: What kind of substance is tritium?
A: Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen containing one proton and two neutrons while the ordinary hydrogen nucleus contains just one proton. It has a half-life of about 12.3 years, which is the time required to reduce half of its radioactivity.
Q: Is tritium found only in the treated water from the damaged nuclear plant?
A: Tritium can also develop when oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere react to cosmic neutrons. Around 70 quadrillion becquerels appear naturally per year, and around a total of 223 trillion becquerels are contained in Japan’s annual rainfall, according to data compiled by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). Coolant in normal operating nuclear reactors also carries tritium. At the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, tritium is generated in groundwater pouring into the buildings that house reactors, and in water used to cool melted fuel debris.
Q: Why is it difficult to dispose of tritium?
A: Other radioactive substances can be removed using specific disposal equipment for filtration and absorption to levels below the allowed ceiling. However, separation is very hard for water containing tritium because its characteristics, including the boiling temperature, are similar to those of normal water.
Q: What about the impact it will have on human health, as it is radioactive?
A: Tritium emits beta radiation that has weak energy, and will mostly pass through the body if drank. Its effects on the human body are said to be minimal compared to radioactive cesium. Nuclear power plants around the world are disposing water containing tritium according to regulations, in oceans and other places, once it has been diluted to a radiation level that falls below standard limits. According to METI, Japan released into oceans around 380 trillion becquerels of tritium per year on average for five years before the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
(Answers by Riki Iwama, Science & Environment News Department)

September 10, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , , | 2 Comments

All options need to be weighed for Fukushima plant tainted water

“A task force of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has considered five options, including release into the Pacific Ocean after dilution, injection into deep underground strata and release into the air after vaporization. The group has concluded that dumping the water into the ocean would be the quickest and least costly way to get rid of it.
This is seen as the best option within the government.”
Contaminated water is stored in large tanks at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
September 6, 2018
The government has held public hearings on plans to deal with growing amounts of radioactive water from the ruined Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The hearings, held in Tomioka and Koriyama in Fukushima Prefecture as well as in Tokyo, underscored the enormous difficulty government policymakers are having in grappling with the complicated policy challenge.
The crippled reactors at the plant are still generating huge amounts of water contaminated with radiation every day. Tons of groundwater percolating into the damaged reactor buildings as well as water being injected into the reactors to cool the melted fuel are constantly becoming contaminated.
Almost all the radioactive elements are removed from the water with a filtering system. But the system cannot catch tritium, a mildly radioactive isotope of hydrogen.
The tritium-contaminated water is stored on-site in hundreds of large tanks. As the number of tanks has reached 900, the remaining space for them is shrinking and expected to run out by around 2020, according to the government.
Clearly, time is growing short on deciding what to do about the problem.
A task force of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has considered five options, including release into the Pacific Ocean after dilution, injection into deep underground strata and release into the air after vaporization. The group has concluded that dumping the water into the ocean would be the quickest and least costly way to get rid of it.
This is seen as the best option within the government.
Tritium is a common radioactive element in the environment that is formed naturally by atmospheric processes. Nuclear power plants across the nation release tritium produced in their operations into the sea according to legal safety standards.
But these facts do not automatically mean that releasing the tritium-laced water into the sea off Fukushima is a good approach to the problem.
Local communities in areas affected by the 2011 nuclear disaster are making strenuous efforts to rebuild the local fishing and agricultural industries that have been battered by the radiation scare. There are still countries that ban imports of foodstuffs produced in Fukushima Prefecture.
Local fishermen and other community members have every reason to oppose the idea of releasing tritium into the ocean. They are naturally concerned that the discharge would produce new bad rumors that deliver an additional blow to the reputation and sales of Fukushima food products.
Unsurprisingly, most of the citizens who spoke at the hearings voiced their opposition to the idea.
Moreover, it was reported last month that high levels of radioactive strontium and iodine surpassing safety standards had been detected in the treated water.
The revelation has made local communities even more distrustful of what they have been told about operations to deal with the radioactive water.
It is obvious that the hearings at only three locations are not enough to sell any plan to cope with the sticky problem to skeptical local residents. The government needs to create more opportunities for communication with them.
In doing so, the government should show a flexible stance without adamantly making the case for the idea of releasing the water into the sea. Otherwise, there can be no constructive debate on the issue.
It can only hope to win the trust of the local communities if it gives serious consideration to other options as well.
During the hearings, many speakers suggested that the water should be kept in large tanks until the radioactivity level falls to a very low level.
The pros and cons of all possible options, including this proposal, should be weighed carefully through cool-headed debate before the decision is made.
Repeated discussions with fruitful exchanges of views among experts and citizens including local residents are crucial for ensuring that the final decision on the plan will win broad public support.
The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima plant, should disclose sufficient information for such discussions and give thoughtful and scrupulous explanations about relevant issues and details.
The government, which has been promoting nuclear power generation as a national policy priority, has the responsibility of building a broad and solid consensus on this problem.

September 10, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

B.S. Propaganda Explaining that Radioactive Water Sea Dumping in Fukushima is Essential

As always the propaganda organs of the nuclear village and of the Japanese government are lying by omission, twisting the real facts, in order to justify their intention to dump the Fukushima daiichi’s 7 years accumulated radioactive water at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the sea, to dump it into the Pacif Ocean would be criminal, plain ecocide.
As this 920 000 tons of radioactive water is not only tritium-laced water as the media would like the public to believe. It contains also other types of harmful radionuclides as Tepco has recently admitted:
TEPCO Admitted Almost 200 Billion Bq of Priorly Undeclared Radionuclides Water Contamination
Radioactive tritium and other types of radionuclides in Fukushima nuclear plant water, despite water treatment

‘Carefully explaining treated water discharge in Fukushima essential’

Sept. 4, 2018
How should “treated water,” which continues to accumulate at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, be disposed of? A plan must be quickly decided so this water does not cause delays in reactor decommissioning work.
Water is used to cool the reactor cores that melted down at the nuclear plant. Groundwater also flows into the plant, where it becomes contaminated by radioactive substances. Water collected at the site and passed through a purification facility is called “treated water.”
More than 900,000 tons of such water is being stored in tanks. This volume is said to be expected to increase by 50,000 tons to 80,000 tons each year.
About 900 tanks of various types already have been built on the plant’s premises. Finding space for additional tanks is becoming increasingly difficult, and plans to build more tanks run only until the end of 2020. If these tanks fill up the plant’s premises, there likely will not be enough room to perform the work needed to decommission the reactors.
The problem is that about 900 trillion becquerels of the radioactive substance tritium (an isotope known as hydrogen-3) remain in the treated water. In principle, removing tritium from water is difficult. The most promising option is releasing this water into the ocean. This would be done after dilution to bring the concentration of tritium to acceptable standards.
Tritium is generated daily at nuclear plants in Japan and overseas and then discharged into the sea in accordance with set standards. The volume released from Japanese nuclear power plants during the five years before the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake averaged about 380 trillion becquerels per year.
Relieve locals’ concerns
Each year, cosmic rays create about 70 quadrillion becquerels of tritium. Japan’s annual rainfall naturally contains about 223 trillion becquerels. The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry and the Nuclear Regulation Authority have explained that levels of tritium below a certain concentration have no negative impact on the environment, among other things.
Releasing tritiated water into the ocean, after the safety of this process has been thoroughly confirmed, is unavoidable.
At public hearings held by the ministry in a bid to turn this plan into reality, many attendees offered the opinion that assurances of the safety of discharging this water “couldn’t be trusted.”
Although this is a technically complex problem, the materials and explanations given at these hearings were very simple. As the explanations were made on the assumption that attendees had basic knowledge about topics such as radiation, attendees demanded the ministry “reexamine the plan from scratch.”
Criticism also focused on the fact that radioactive substances other than tritium remain in the treated water. This was triggered by some media reports on the issue just before the hearings.
Since four years ago, TEPCO has explained it attached great importance to efficiency in the purification process. This was to reduce the impact of radiation on workers at the plant and other people. TEPCO plans to remove the remaining radioactive substances when the water is discharged, but this process was not mentioned in the materials distributed at the hearings.
It appears the lack of explanation about possible risks has fueled the backlash to the discharge plan.
Locals, including people involved in the fishing industry, oppose releasing the water into the ocean because of possible damage and losses arising from negative public misperceptions. They are concerned that discharging treated water could once again have a negative impact on confidence in products from the area, which has been slowly recovering.
Of course, efforts must be made to call on local residents to get behind the plan. The government and TEPCO also should take stronger measures over wide areas to counter harmful misperceptions.

September 6, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima water release into sea faces chorus of opposition

Sep 1, 2018
Citizens and environmental groups have expressed opposition to the idea of releasing into the ocean water tainted with tritium, a radioactive substance, from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“Long-term storage (of the tritium-containing water) is possible from technical and economic standpoints,” Komei Hosokawa, 63, an official of the Citizens’ Commission on Nuclear Energy, said at a public hearing held in Tokyo on Friday by a subcommittee of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy. “The radiation levels in the water will decrease during the long-term storage,” he added.
At a similar hearing held the same day in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, Aki Hashimoto, a housewife from the city, said, “I never want to see further worsening of ocean pollution from radiation.”
Opinions objecting to the release of the tritium-contaminated water into the ocean were also heard at a hearing held in the Fukushima town of Tomioka on Thursday.
After Friday’s hearings, Ichiro Yamamoto, who heads the subcommittee, told reporters that many participants in the hearings said the tainted water should continue to be held in storage tanks.
The subcommittee will study the option of keeping the water in the tanks, he added.
Tepco is lowering the radiation levels in contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 plant using special equipment, but the device cannot remove tritium.
The tritium-tainted water is stored in tanks within the premises of the power plant, which was heavily damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
In 2016, an expert panel of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy discussed five methods to dispose of the tritium-tainted water —injection deep into the ground, release into the sea after dilution, release into the air through evaporation, conversion into hydrogen through electrolysis, and burying it after it is solidified.
The panel estimated that the ocean release is the cheapest option, costing up to about ¥3.4 billion.

September 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Residents blast water-discharge method at Fukushima plant

Tanks containing radioactive water are seen in the compound of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant that spans the towns of Okuma and Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture.
August 31, 2018
TOMIOKA, Fukushima Prefecture–Fishermen and local residents on Aug. 30 vehemently opposed the government’s plan to discharge radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea, saying the measure will damage a number of industries.
During a public hearing on the measure, they also blasted the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., for “misleading” the public by failing to disclose that radioactive substances, such as strontium, remained in the water to be discharged.
Although the ministry and TEPCO will likely have to repeat purification measures for the water to remove those substances, they gained little support for their plan to deal with the radioactive water accumulating at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Thirteen of the 14 people who were allowed to express their opinions at the ministry-organized public hearing expressed opposition to the water-discharge plan.
“The (negative) influences of the measure will reach a wide range of fields, including not only the fishery industry but also tourism and restaurant businesses,” said Tatsuya Ito, a resident of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, and a member of “Genpatsu-mondai Jumin-undo Zenkoku-renraku Center (National liaison center for residents’ movements on nuclear power generation issues).
Tetsu Nozaki, chairman of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations, emphasized that releasing the water into the sea would deal a “devastating blow” to the prefecture’s fisheries industry.
“If the water is discharged in large quantities, it will inevitably cause confusion in Japan and abroad and lead to damage from groundless rumors,” Nozaki said.
After the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami caused the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in March 2011, coastal fishing in Fukushima Prefecture was suspended because of radioactive water flowing into the sea.
Fishing for three types of fish later resumed on a trial basis. Now, more than 170 types are permitted, and preparations are being made for a full-scale resumption of operations.
But at the plant, groundwater flowing into the damaged reactor buildings continues to pose a problem, even after underground frozen walls were completed to divert the clean water into the sea.
About 100 tons of groundwater still become contaminated every day after entering the buildings. TEPCO also injects 70 tons of water daily into each of the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors to cool the melted fuel.
Water from the buildings is purified, and 100 tons are stored in large tanks in the compound of the plant per day. The remaining water is re-injected into the reactors.
The volume of water stored in those tanks has reached 920,000 tons in the seven-and-a-half years since the triple meltdown. About 900 tanks, including those for unpurified water, now stand at the plant.
The ministry says that increasing the number of tanks will become impossible in late 2020 due to the limited space. It believes that a method to dispose of radioactive water must be decided within this year at the earliest.
The facilities used to purify the water remove radioactive substances, such as cesium and strontium, but they cannot eliminate tritium, whose chemical nature is the same as hydrogen’s.
Discharging tritium into the sea is permitted if its radioactivity level is less than the statutory standard of 60,000 becquerels per liter of water.
But at the public hearing, the participants learned that traces of strontium also remained in the purified water.
“(The ministry and TEPCO) have misled the public,” said Kazuyoshi Sato, an Iwaki city assemblyman. “They made a serious mistake in the fair disclosure of a wide range of information.”
After the hearing, Ichiro Yamamoto, professor emeritus of nuclear power at Nagoya University and chairman of a government subcommittee on disposing of radioactive water, admitted that the government failed to sufficiently explain the fact that radioactive substances other than tritium remained in the water.
“I think that it is necessary to purify the water again,” he said.
In May 2016, a ministry working group offered five methods to dispose of the radioactive water: putting it into geological layers; discharging it into the sea; releasing it as steam; discharging it as hydrogen; and burying it in the ground.
The group said if the radioactive water is diluted and released into the sea, it would cost 3.4 billion yen ($30 million) and take seven years and four months to complete. It concluded that this was cheapest and quickest of the five methods.
Toyoshi Fuketa, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, also supported the measure of releasing the water into the sea, saying, “It is the only feasible method.”

September 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Gov’t, TEPCO plan to dump treated water in sea angers Fukushima fishermen

july 17 2018.jpg
In this July 17, 2018 file photo, tanks containing water contaminated with radioactive materials are seen from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter on the grounds of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.
August 30, 2018
TOKYO/IWAKI, Fukushima — In response to a Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plan to release water containing radioactive tritium even after being treated from the tsunami-stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant into the Pacific Ocean, Fukushima’s fishing industry is biting back.
A panel of experts from the economy ministry is holding the first public meetings in Tokyo and Fukushima Prefecture on Aug. 30 and 31 concerning the future of the growing number of tanks of treated water around the power plant in the northeastern Japanese prefecture.
The ministry and TEPCO have expressed intentions to make a final decision sometime this year on whether to dump the treated water into the sea, saying that they are approaching the limit of the amount of water that the facilities can accommodate. However, fishermen and others involved in the marine product industry in Fukushima Prefecture, who have conducted numerous safety tests of their products, say that such a move would only undermine the trust they have been trying to build concerning safety, building up a sense of crisis.
“Scientists can simply say, ‘It’s fine to dump (the water) into the ocean,’ but will the citizens of Japan still buy fish from Fukushima (afterward) like they do now?” So asked 63-year-old Toru Takahashi, a fisherman from Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, who rebuilt his boat damaged in the 2011 tsunami and has participated in the testing of the fish off of Fukushima’s shores. Takahashi believes that the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s approval of the plan to dump the water containing tritium — which cannot be filtered using current technology — in the Pacific Ocean put forth by the economy ministry as the fastest and most low-cost method of disposal, lacks the perspective of fishermen and those in the marine product industry.
After high concentrations of radioactive materials were washed into the ocean in the nuclear disaster at the power plant in 2011, fishing along the coast of Fukushima was halted completely. From the following year, the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries and Co-operative Associations began trial operations and other activities to test the safety of marine products, expanding the range of fishing areas and species. Since April 2015, there have been no cases of fish exceeding the government standard of 100 becquerels of radioactivity per kilogram. The catch has been only a little more than 10 percent that of before the accident, fishing of core species has begun again, and radiation below the minimum detection limit is found in over 99 percent of the products tested this year.
It is precisely for this reason that the notion of releasing the treated water into the ocean off Fukushima’s coast is causing concerns in the fishing industry.
“We don’t intend to protest on scientific grounds, but the problem is that the measure hasn’t gained the understanding of the citizens of Japan. It will be a huge blow to the Fukushima fishing industry,” said Fukushima prefectural fisheries federation chairman Tetsu Nozaki, who plans to make his opposition to the plan known at the forum in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, on Aug. 30.
The contaminated water in question is that which has been used to cool the melted nuclear fuel rods in the reactor and the ground water around the plant, and each day, roughly 220 tons of such water is amassed, and is expected to amount to 55,000 tons per year in the future. Currently, there are 880 containment tanks on the grounds of the nuclear plant. Even after treating the water, tritium cannot be removed.
According to the Nuclear Regulation Authority, if an individual was to drink 2 liters of water containing the maximum standard amount of tritium every day, then they would be exposed to an additional roughly 1 millisievert of radiation annually, which is equal to the actual radiation exposure limit put forth by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.
After collecting the opinions of the participants in the public hearings, the government plans to make a final decision about processing the water in cooperation with TEPCO before the end of the year.
(Japanese original by Tatsushi Inui, Iwaki Local Bureau, and Riki Iwama, Science & Environment News Department)

September 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima fisheries group opposes release of radioactive water into sea

Aug 30, 2018
TOMIOKA, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – The head of a fisheries industry group in Fukushima Prefecture expressed opposition on Thursday to the idea of releasing water containing radioactive tritium from a crippled nuclear plant in the prefecture into the ocean.
The tritium-tainted water is from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which was damaged heavily in the powerful earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
“At a time when harmful rumors are still circulating in Japan and some countries continue to restrict imports (of Fukushima goods), releasing the tainted water into the sea will inevitably deliver a fatal blow to the Fukushima fishery industry,” Tetsu Nozaki, who leads the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations, said.
His remarks came during a public hearing held by a subcommittee of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy in the Fukushima town of Tomioka.
The hearing was for the canvassing of opinions on how to deal with the tritium-tainted water. Releasing it into the sea has been proposed as one option. Similar hearings will be held in the city of Koriyama, Fukushima, and Tokyo on Friday.
Using special equipment, Tepco is lowering the radiation levels in contaminated water at the plant, but the device cannot remove tritium.
While the processed water is kept in tanks within the premises of the nuclear power station, the amount of tainted water continues to increase as the plant’s damaged reactors need to be cooled continuously. Tepco is about to run out of suitable sites to construct new storage tanks, according to the government.
Discussions on ways to deal with the tritium-contaminated water are underway at the subcommittee of the government agency.
In a June 2016 report, an expert panel of the agency said that releasing the polluted water into the sea after it is diluted with fresh water would be relatively cheap and time-efficient.

September 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Public hearing in Fukushima on tritium-laced water

Aug. 30, 2018
Many people at a public hearing have criticized a plan to release water containing radioactive tritium into the sea from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
A government panel of experts held the meeting in the town of Tomioka in Fukushima Prefecture on Thursday to discuss how to deal with the contaminated water.
About 100 people, including local residents, and heads of organizations were invited to take part.
Contaminated water is generated daily at the plant in the process of cooling the damaged reactors. The water is being treated to get rid of radioactive substances, but tritium is difficult to remove. About 920,000 tons of water containing tritium is currently being stored at the plant.
Among the possible options to dispose of the tritium-laced water, the government says diluting and releasing it into the sea is the quickest and most inexpensive way.
A local fisherman who attended Thursday’s hearing said he fears that releasing contaminated water will undo all the progress that has been made since fishing resumed on a trial basis. Other participants also stated negative views.
But a researcher from Osaka expressed support for releasing the water while monitoring radiation levels.
The panel will hold more public hearings on Friday in Koriyama City in Fukushima Prefecture and in Tokyo.
The experts will study the opinions expressed at the hearings before submitting their proposal to the government.


September 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

PART 2: Radioactive water at Fukushima Daiichi: What should be done?



For their part, representatives of the government and TEPCO I have spoken with invariably stress how important it is to them to reach understand and agreement with all stakeholders, the Fukushima fisheries coops in particular, and to respond to their concerns in the decision-making process. They say they are fully prepared to accommodate the fishermen’s desires regarding the quantity and timing of releases, how they will be monitored, and how to adjust the release parameters in response to what is found after the system begins operation. And although when I point out that concern is not limited to fishermen in Fukushima, but that coops in Miyagi and Iwate, as well as Ibaragi and Chiba also consider themselves stakeholders, and that in fact residents internationally along the entire Pacific rim have already expressed concern, officials voice agreement but cannot point to any concrete efforts to communicate with or include anyone outside of Fukushima or the Tokyo power centers. In the same way, the concerns of major food distributors such as supermarket chains, who ultimately make the decision whether or not to purchase and sell Fukushima marine products nationwide, do not seem to be being addressed.

Shuji Okuda, METI’s Director for Decommissioning and Contaminated Water Management, Nuclear Accident Response Office, Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, stressed that no decision has yet been made which of the five options for dealing with the tritiated water detailed in the 2016 Task Force report will be chosen. In other words, although TEPCO, government ministries, and stakeholders are proceeding as if it’s a done deal, no-one with decision-making power has yet made a decision. “It will be a decision of the Japanese Government as a whole,” Okuda explains, “not one made by any single agency. And it will be based on ample discussions with all stakeholders.” Since the release of the Task Force Report in 2016, METI has been discussing the social impacts quite a lot, he noted. They are particularly concerned about “damaging rumors”- fuhyo higai – that will result from any tritiated water release, and have been discussing how to counter them. He continues, “Because the risks have been demonstrated to be very low, it’s less a question of safety, and more one of potential public reaction and reputational damage. We plan to hold further discussions with stakeholders and the general public to increase understanding.” Regarding international communication efforts, he points to English-language materials and reports the ministry releases, but says that since any impacts will involve primarily Japanese local area, information dissemination overseas is limited to experts, administrative officials and some media.”

METI recently announced that meetings will be held where the public can hear explanations of proposed solutions and comment on them. The Subcommittee on Handling Water Treated by the Polynuclide Removal Facility is one of several Japanese government committees organized by METI tasked with formulating a response to the problem of the radioactive water. The planned public sessions were announced at its eighth meeting, on Friday, May 18th. This is a step in the right direction, and is long overdue. Nevertheless it may well be a case of “too little, too late.”

METI, Subcommittee on handling water treated by the polynuclide removal facility, 8th meeting May 18, 2018 (Report regarding upcoming public hearings on tritiated water problem – in Japanese)

Good public communication about the release plan, the ocean science it involves, and what the expected risks are and why, cannot by themselves guarantee public acceptance. But this kind of communication is essential, particularly with such a globally contentious and high-profile issue like releasing radiation into the ocean. The public needs to know the environmental effects, health effects, how it will be monitored, what transparency measures are in place, what the process for adjustment and revision will be. Almost two years have elapsed since the Tritiated Water task Force released its recommendations, and a broad and energetic stakeholder engagement and information effort should have been ongoing since then. But such efforts are now only in the planning stage. It seems that METI and other ministries have been paralyzed, faced with taking responsibility for a politically damaging decision, forced to acknowledge that they support the plan but unable to take concrete steps to implement it or prepare the public. TEPCO, while it accepts its responsibility for the decision, seeks full government support, including robust public communication efforts. It seems extremely unlikely to act without a clear government decision in favor of the release and stipulating its timing. We should be prepared for the government to remain paralyzed until the last possible moment, when crisis is imminent, and then to announce a decision suddenly, justifying it by saying that time has run out and that it “can’t be helped.” As a colleague pointed out, this is, unfortunately, the Kasumigaseki way.*

When asked what the official position of TEPCO was regarding the plan to release the water, Kohta Seto of TEPCO’s Communication Development, Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination and Decommissioning Engineering Company, replied, “We recognize that comprehensive examination of technical and social factors is ongoing currently at the national subcommittee. Our response policy will be made in consultation with the government and related stakeholders based on the subcommittee’s discussions.” This echoes METI’s assertion that no decision has actually been made. But in fact the Tritiated Water Task Force, the subcommittee referred to, has been dormant for over a year, and any further recommendations will come from the higher-level METI Contaminated Water Countermeasures Committee and from the NRA.

Others at TEPCO have acknowledged that the company feels ultimately responsible, and is confronted with a decision that could further damage others. Takahiro Kimoto, General Manager, Nuclear Power & Plant Siting Division, Fukushima Daiichi D&D Engineering Company, notes that under the existing plan and at the current rate, by 2020 there will be no more space to store additional tritiated water onsite at Daiichi. Constructing the dilution facilities and pipelines that the release would require is expected to require almost a year of preparation after any decision is made. At the current rate, that means the “go” signal must be given by early 2019 at the latest. Though TEPCO expects that measures such as the frozen wall and subdrain pumps will continue to reduce the amount of treated water that needs to be stored, nevertheless they recognize that there is a narrowing window for decision and action. The company has no plans to try to obtain land offsite to further expand tank space, which could provide an additional margin of time. Though feasible technically and cost-wise, this would be a stopgap measure that merely delays the decision to deal with the tritium more permanently by the other means already being considered. Kimoto explained that the company does not want to act independently. “The policies can’t and shouldn’t be determined by TEPCO alone, but we continue discussing the available options with government and other stakeholders. How much to empty the tanks, how that should be done to minimize environmental consequences, how to maintain trust and transparency, who we need to engage with on this matter, these are all issues we seek stakeholder engagement on. These discussions are taking a long time, but we consider them essential.” Put bluntly, TEPCO knows they will be the bad guys in this scenario no matter what, and prefer to have as broad support as possible.


I initially approached this issue as one of transparency and the need to include a broadly-defined base of stakeholders in the decision-making process and subsequent monitoring of the results. That has been experience of SAFECAST, which prioritizes transparency and impartiality, and tries to get as many people involved in environmental monitoring and decision-making as possible, with unprecedented positive results. We have seen similar benefits where citizen groups in Japan monitor food and their own environments, and seek and often gain a vital voice in decisions that affect them. The Fukushima fisheries coops, TEPCO, and METI all said they would welcome transparent, independent, ongoing third-party monitoring of seawater and marine life if and when the tritiated is released. TEPCO and METI say they understand the need for transparency, and are prepared to change their institutional cultures in order to better accommodate it. Okuda of METI observed, “Having accurate data available to the public won’t by itself ensure adequate understanding, but in the end it is essential.”

Based on many conversations, however, I’m not sure enough people in these organizations fully grasp what true transparency means. Dr. Ken Buesseler of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who has been monitoring Fukushima radiation effects in the ocean since immediately after the start of the disaster, started a very effective crowdsourced program to monitor radiation in the Pacific Ocean along the North American coast. He has long complained of the difficulty of getting adequate access to ocean zones close to Daiichi for scientific research. Regarding the need for transparency and independent monitoring he says, “When I talk about independent monitoring, I don’t mean JAEA or IAEA, or other big government-connected institutions, but universities, NGO’s, and other independent research labs.” He adds, “Even before the decision to release the water is made, someone should get a detailed accounting for what is in each tank for all of the radionuclides of concern, not just that they are below detection (using high thresholds), as the large volume of water means even seemingly small amounts add up. This needs to be independent of TEPCO or whoever is in charge of dumping.”

Buesseler and others share my opinion that robust and effective communication is essential, not to persuade the public that official plans are acceptable, but to better equip them to participate in the debate in an informed way, and to push back where they feel it is necessary. More effort should be made in communicating in general, and this requires a better-educated and more scientifically literate public, which means ongoing efforts that begin years before crisis renders it necessary. Independent groups should be involved in interpreting data and presenting the results in a way which does not damage their independence. It may be necessary to set funds for this aside where they cannot be controlled by government or industry. In the case of the tritiated water at Daiichi, though this kind of transparency and engagement will be essential, it will need to be accompanied by appropriate communication efforts. Those responsible for this should not underestimate the challenge or think it can effectively be rolled out in a short period of time.

According to METI, the content, location, and timing of the upcoming public sessions will be discussed at the next subcommitee meeting in July. People unable to attend in person will be able to submit comments and questions via email. Though hastily-planned events could possibly be held before the end of this year, it seems likely they will need to happen in 2019, bumping up against the decision deadline. While some fishermen are likely to attend, the cooperatives themselves will likely refuse. This situation requires the actual involvement of citizens in the decision making process, but it is difficult to find instances of that actually happening in Fukushima since the accident in 2011. At the central government level in particular, it has almost always been DAD — “Decide, Announce, Defend.” Government planners must think seriously about how prevent this from becoming just another clumsy photo-op, a fig leaf that will allow the government to claim it has adequately consulted the public.


Regardless of whether one trusts scientific opinion or TEPCO, the tritiated water cannot be left in the tanks at Daiichi indefinitely, and releasing it to the ocean, though not without risk, is the least objectionable of the available options. As it stands now, given the depth of public mistrust and the nature of misinformation in our current era, the situation is ripe for the maximum misunderstanding and negative social impact to occur if and when this tritiated water is finally released. Unfortunately, I think we should be prepared for things to be done the “Kasumigaseki way,” with much insincere hand-wringing and expressions of regret. There will be negative social impact no matter what, but unless responsible government officials step up soon, own the decision, and ensure that public engagement is genuine, broad, and effective, these negative impacts will be unnecessarily magnified.

* Kasumigaseki is the part of Tokyo where central government functions are located.  It’s similar to Capitol Hill.

Azby Brown

Azby Brown is Safecast’s lead researcher and primary author of the Safecast Report. A widely published authority in the fields of design, architecture, and the environment, he has lived in Japan for over 30 years, and founded the KIT Future Design Institute in 2003. He joined Safecast in mid-2011, and frequently represents the group at international expert conferences.

June 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

PART 1: Radioactive water at Fukushima Daiichi: What should be done?


850,000 TONS

Of all the conflicts and consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi NPP disaster, the contaminated water issue is one of the most complicated, contentious, and potentially long-term. It’s a multifaceted problem ultimately rooted in the influx of groundwater into the damaged reactor buildings. A large volume of water is pumped into and out of the damaged reactors each day to keep them cool. This is treated to remove salt and most radionuclides and recirculated back into the reactors. If there were no additional water leaking into the reactor basements, this could function as an essentially closed loop. But a volume equal to the additional groundwater inflow needs to be removed from recirculation. It too is treated to remove all radionuclides except tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen known as H-3, and is being stored in the now familiar rows of tanks onsite at Daiichi. A partially effective underground dam of frozen earth, together with a system of subdrain pumps, has reduced the volume necessary to be removed from about 400 cubic meters per day to about 150-200 cubic meters (though appreciably more when it rains heavily). About 850 large tanks now hold 850,000 tons of tritiated water, and TEPCO says that it will run out of space to store additional water onsite by 2020, so something must be done soon. As far back as 2014, the IAEA recommended a controlled release of this water to the ocean as the safest course of action, and Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Agency (NRA) has made similar recommendations. A Tritiated Water Task Force convened by METI in 2013 examined five options in detail, including evaporating it and releasing it into the atmosphere, releasing it into the atmosphere as hydrogen gas, injecting it into deep geologic strata, storing it underground, and diluting it and discharging it into the ocean. For reasons of cost, available technology, time required, and safety, in its final report issued in June, 2016, the task force concluded that ocean discharge was the least objectionable approach. TEPCO has made it clear that this is its preference as well, and in July of last year Takashi Kawamura, chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc., said publicly that the decision to release the tritiated water had already been made. Many people were alarmed, particularly Fukushima fishermen who expected to be consulted, and the company backpedalled immediately. So far no decision has been officially announced. The reason for the delay in the decision is the very reasonable expectation of a strong public backlash. Meanwhile the window for the decision to be made is rapidly closing.

METI Tritiated Water Task Force Report, June 2016 (English version)

Preliminary Summary Report: IAEA International Peer Review Mission On Mid-And-Long-Term Roadmap Towards The Decommissioning Of Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Units 1-4
(Third Mission), Feb. 2015

Japan Times: Regulator urges Tepco to release treated radioactive water from damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant into the sea, Jan. 11, 2018

Japan Times: Fukushima’s tritiated water to be dumped into sea, TEPCO chief says, July 14, 2017

TEPCO: Response to the article about the release of tritiated water into the ocean, July 14, 2017

Asahi Shimbun: New TEPCO executives tripping over their tongues, July 20, 2017



The strongest and most meaningful opposition comes from Fukushima’s fisheries cooperatives, which have suffered tremendously due to the disaster. Not only were their ports and fishing fleets destroyed by the tsunami, but the market for their fish collapsed after the sale of 44 marine species was prohibited by the Japanese government in 2011 due to radioactive contamination. The public seems largely unaware that in the years since the bans were initiated, the percentage of Fukushima marine products exceeding the 100 Bq/kg allowable level of radioactive cesium has decreased rapidly, and has actually been zero since 2015. People are right to be skeptical of this, perhaps, but it has been confirmed by official testing, by independent researchers, and by testing done by independent citizen groups. Testing is done for each marine variety on a fishing ground-by-fishing ground basis, and as they have gradually been demonstrated to meet the requirements, 34 of the 44 initially banned seafood varieties have been allowed back on the market. Thanks to incrementally improving consumer confidence, the market for Fukushima seafood has slowly improved. The Fukushima fisheries coops justifiably fear that if the tritiated water is released to the ocean, the resulting consumer backlash will totally destroy their livelihoods once again.

Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations

Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF): Results of the monitoring on radioactivity level in fisheries products: Summary of Monitoring on fishery products (As of Mar. 31, 2018)

METI has jurisdiction over contaminated water releases from nuclear reactors like Daiichi because it is responsible for overseeing energy production systems as a whole, including accident consequences. The NRA, which is part of the Environment Ministry, has specific jurisdiction for nuclear power, and its evaluations and guidance are also important. But ultimately the decision of whether or not to release the tritiated water is TEPCO’s. A company spokesman explained to me recently that government guidelines and recommendations are taken very seriously, and that the company goes to great lengths to meet government expectations. But ultimately these recommendations are non-binding. TEPCO hopes to get the green light from METI and the NRA, and all of them have been delaying their decisions in the hopes that the approval of the fisheries coops can be obtained as well.

On the face of it, this hope is not totally unfounded, as there is an important precedent. The fisheries coops have been approving the release of water from two specific sources onsite at Daiichi for several years. One is a bypass system uphill of the reactors that intercepts groundwater before it reaches the reactor area. The other is a subdrain system that pumps water from the area around the reactors. In both cases, the water has relatively low levels of radioactive contamination, and is treated to remove radionuclides and then tested by TEPCO and third-parties (JAEA and the Japan Chemical Analysis Center). If the radioactivity is lower than TEPCO’s self-imposed target levels of 1 Bq/L each for Cs137 and Cs134, 5 Bq/L for Gross beta (including strontium), and 1500 Bq/L for tritium — all of which are many times lower than the limits for drinking water set by the WHO — the fisheries coops agree to its release. This agreement has been in place since 2014 for the bypass water, and since 2015 for the subdrain water. It appears to have been functioning smoothly, with over 350,000 tons of bypass water and about 500,000 tons of subdrain water released so far. The participation of third-parties in the monitoring has been the key to gaining trust in the measurements.

TEPCO – Water Discharge Criteria for Groundwater Bypass, February 3, 2014

TEPCO – Groundwater pump-up by Subdrain or Groundwater drain


The tritium in the tanks at Daiichi is much more radioactive than the subdrain or bypass water, however. The concentration levels of tritium in the tanks ranges from about 0.5 to 4 million Bq/L, a total of about 0.76 PBq (trillion Bq) in all. No decision has been made about how much is likely to be released per day, but technical and cost estimates have been based on 400 cubic meters (tons) per day, roughly equal to the maximum daily inflow of groundwater. It is expected that releases would continue for about five years. Under the scenarios being discussed, the water would be diluted to 60,000 Bq/L before being released to the ocean. This number alone seems alarming, but is the concentration level that has been legally allowed to be released from Japanese nuclear power plants and reprocessing facilities such as Tokaimura for decades. The science regarding what is likely to happen to the tritium in terms of dispersal by ocean currents and effects on fish and other biota is fairly well understood, primarily because of decades of monitoring done in Japan and near similar facilities abroad, such as Sellafield in the UK and LaHague in France. Data from the French government shows that the LaHague reprocessing plant releases about 12PBq (12 trillion Bq) per year, and the maximum concentration of tritium in the surrounding ocean has been about 7Bq/L. This means that the amount released yearly from LaHague is over 12 times the total being stored at Daiichi, and the daily release rate is over 20,000 times that expected in Fukushima. Dr. Jota Kanda, a professor at the Department of Ocean Sciences, Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, observed that the dispersal and further dilution of tritium is rapid, and says, “Based on what we’ve seen at La Hague, it seems likely that under the ocean release scenario being considered now, tritium concentrations in the ocean off Fukushima will not exceed a few Bq/L and will likely remain close to the background level.” Globally, the background levels of tritium in water currently range between 1 and 4 Bq/L, which includes 0.1 to 0.6 Bq/L that is naturally-occurring and more than doubled by tritium remaining from nuclear testing. In oceans, tritium concentration levels at the surface are around 0.1 to 0.2 Bq/L. For comparison, naturally occurring tritium in rainwater in Japan between 1980-1995 was between 0.5- 1.5 Bq/L, and prior to 2011 in Fukushima rivers and tap water was generally between 0.5-1.5 Bq/L. In the US, the EPA standard for tritium in drinking water is 740 Bq/liter, while the EU imposes a limit of 100Bq/L.

Fujita et al, Environmental Tritium in the Vicinity of Tokai Reprocessing Plant. Journal of Nuclear Science and Technology, 44:11, 1474-1480

Matsuura, et al, Levels of tritium concentration in the environmental samples around JAERI TOKAI. Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry, Articles, Vol. 197, No. 2 (1995)295-307

METI Task Force Report supplement: About the physical properties of tritium,
Yamanishi Toshihiko, 2013

LaHague tritium release data, cited in METI Task Force Report supplement, p6

Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII): A survey of tritium in Irish seawater, July 2013

IRSN factsheet: Tritium and the environment

Michio Aoyama: Long-term behavior of 137Cs and 3H activities from TEPCO Fukushima NPP1 accident in the coastal region off Fukushima, Japan. Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry, 2018

Tsumune et al: Distribution of oceanic 137Cs from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant simulated numerically by a regional ocean model. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity 111 (2012) 100-108

Povinec, et al, Cesium, iodine and tritium in NW Pacific waters – a comparison of the Fukushima impact with global fallout. Biogeosciences Discuss., 10, 6377–6416, 2013

Dr. Kanda further explains that biological organisms such as fish have different concentration factors for different radionuclides. When the ambient level of Cs137 in seawater is 1 Bq/L, for instance, some fish species may show values approaching 100 Bq/kg. But for tritium (H3) the ratio is 1:1, and 1 Bq/L in seawater will result in 1Bq/kg in fish. Again, at La Hague, which has had a much higher release of tritium for decades, the concentrations in marine wildlife near the point of release between 1997-2006 has ranged from 4.0 – 19.0 Bq/kg, with a mean of 11.1 Bq/kg. Using this as a guideline, Kanda estimates that even with an ongoing release of 60,000 Bq/L of tritium offshore of Daiichi, the fish a short distance away are unlikely to exceed 1 Bq/kg. This can, and must be, confirmed by conscientious monitoring.

What about health effects to humans? Though the release from Daiichi would be many times smaller than what is ongoing from LaHague or Sellafield, and the levels in the ocean after release seem likely to be close to that in normal rivers and rainwater, it is understandable that people would be concerned about risk. The scientific consensus is that tritium presents a much lower risk than radionuclides such as radioactive cesium, radioactive iodine, or strontium. This is reflected in allowable limits in drinking water which are generally tens or hundreds of times higher for tritium than for these others, ranging from 100 Bq/L in the European Union, 740 Bq/L in the US, 7000 Bq/L in Canada, 30,000 Bq/L in Finland, and 76,103 Bq/L in Australia. The WHO limit for tritium in drinking water is 10,000 Bq/L. Allowable limits in food have in most cases not been established. While these limits reflect a general scientific consensus that tritium presents a very low risk, the wide range of official values suggests scientific uncertainty about how it actually affects the human body.

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC): Standards and Guidelines for Tritium in Drinking Water, 2008


Because in its most common form, known as HTO, tritiated water behaves almost identically to water, it is eliminated from the human body with a biological half-life of 10 days, the same as for water. But when it is incorporated into living things or organic matter, a fraction of it binds with organic molecules to become organically bound tritium, known as OBT. In this form it can stay in the body for years, and its risks, while assumed to be fairly low, are not fully understood. Dr. Ian Fairlie, a UK-based researcher who has published widely on the risks of tritium exposure, believes that current guidelines underestimate the nuclide’s true risk. Fairlie points out that there is a long-running controversy among experts regarding the risks of OBT, which many believe are higher than official guidelines currently recognize. Many official agencies, like France’s IRSN, have issued reports that recognize these uncertainties, and Fairlie believes that the research findings indicate that the dose from OBT should be increased by a factor of 5 compared to HTO.

Fairlie: Tritium: Comments on Annex C of UNSCEAR 2016 Report, March 14, 2017

IRSN factsheet: Tritium and the environment

In the ocean release scenarios being considered in Fukushima, Fairlie agrees that there will be high levels of dilution. Nevertheless, as the tritium disperses, he says, “It will be found throughout the entire ocean food chain.” The ICRP suggests that 3% of the tritium metabolized from water by marine life becomes potentially riskier OBT, while the IAEA estimates the fraction at 50%. IRSN and others caution that the biological exchange of tritium and other aspects of its action in organisms, such as the effects of exposure on embryos and foetuses, is incomplete. The METI Tritiated Water Task Force report of June 2016 explains that, “When standard values pertaining to radioactive material in food were established [in Japan] in 2012, it was concluded that “it is difficult to conceive of the concentration of tritium in food reaching a dose that would require attention.” This must not be assumed to be the case. Any estimate of risks to humans from tritium exposure should take the uncertainties as well as the possibility of higher risk from OBT fully into account. That said, the roughly 1Bq/kg maximum expected by experts to be found in fish off Fukushima after release is roughly from 100 to 70,000 times lower than drinking water limits around the world. Assuming that 3%-50% of that 1 Bq/kg is OBT, with a potentially higher risk factor, the human exposure risks from this scenario nevertheless appear to be extremely low, close to those of normal background radiation. The Japanese Gov’t is arguing that it is negligible.


TEPCO, METI, and other government bodies which share the mandate for dealing with contaminated water from Fukushima Daiichi believe there is no scientific reason to prevent releasing the tritiated water into the Pacific. For them, the largest stumbling bock is the lack of approval from the Fukushima fisheries cooperatives. As described above, these coops agreed to other releases of treated water from Daiichi as long as it’s compliance with safety regulations could be independently confirmed. Since the science indicates similarly minimal risk from releasing the water from the tanks after considerable dilution, what is their objection now? “We are totally opposed to the planned release,” explained Mr Takaaki Sawada of the Iwaki Office of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations, known as FS Gyoren. “It’s not a question of money or compensation,” he continued, “nor of any level of concentration we might accept as safe. There aren’t any conditions we would set, saying ‘If you satisfy these conditions then we will agree.’ We do not think it should be our responsibility to decide whether or not to release it. That entire discussion is inappropriate.”

Over the course of our long conversation, Sawada frankly acknowledged that the scientific consensus indicates very low risk if the water is released. “It’s not a question of scientific understanding,” he said. “We understand that tritiated water is released from other nuclear power plants in Japan and around the world. But we think it will be impossible for the public in general to understand why tritium is considered low risk, and expect there will be a large new backlash against Fukushima marine products no matter how scientifically it is explained.” I pointed out that the coops agreed to the release of the subdrain and bypass water from Daiichi, and asked what was different about this. He pointed out that in those cases, the water is pumped out before it is contaminated, and the public seems to understand that the contamination levels are already very low.

Fisheries coops, or kumai, are organized at each fishing port, of which there are 14 in Fukushima, only 2 of which, in Soma and Iwaki, are now operating commercially. The Fukushima coops have a total of about 1400 members at present. FS Gyoren is a prefectural federation, or rengo kumiai, that exists to facilitate communication and cooperation among the individual coops. There is a national rengo kumiai as well, called Zengyoren. These are not companies, and are not top-down organizations. Rather, each local port kumiai maintains independence. And though in meetings with Tepco or the government FS Gyoren communicates the concerns of members based on the kumai’s own meetings, no real full consensus has been reached regarding the proposed releases. It is a difficult situation with many possibilities for dissatisfaction and dissent. As an outside observer, I expected that some trust-building conditions, such as more transparent and conscientious monitoring, or further limits to the concentration and quantities released, could be satisfied which would allow the coops to agree to the ocean discharge. But now I think they won’t budge, particularly after TEPCO chairman Kawamura’s surprise announcement last summer that the decision had already been made without their approval. The kumiai will, I think, force the decision to be made against their strong opposition. I think they’re right that Japanese society is primed for a large backlash against Fukushima seafood no matter what the science and measurement shows.

Azby Brown

Azby Brown is Safecast’s lead researcher and primary author of the Safecast Report. A widely published authority in the fields of design, architecture, and the environment, he has lived in Japan for over 30 years, and founded the KIT Future Design Institute in 2003. He joined Safecast in mid-2011, and frequently represents the group at international expert conferences.

June 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Experts: Fukushima Must Do More to Reduce Radioactive Water

March 7, 2018
By MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press
A group of experts has concluded that a costly underground ice wall is only partially effective in reducing the ever-growing amount of contaminated water at Japan’s destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant, and that other measures are needed as well.
In this Nov. 12, 2014, file photo, workers wearing protective gears stand outside Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant’s reactor in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan.
A government-commissioned group of experts concluded Wednesday, March 7, 2018 that a costly underground ice wall is only partially effective in reducing the ever-growing amount of contaminated water at Japan’s destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant, and that other measures are needed as well.
TOKYO (AP) — A government-commissioned group of experts concluded Wednesday that a costly underground ice wall is only partially effective in reducing the ever-growing amount of contaminated water at Japan’s destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant, and that other measures are needed as well.
The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., says the ice wall has helped reduce the radioactive water by half. The plant also pumps out several times as much groundwater before it reaches the tsunami-damaged reactors via a conventional drainage system using dozens of wells dug around the area.
The groundwater mixes with radioactive water leaking from the damaged reactors.
The panel agreed Wednesday that the ice wall helps, but said it doesn’t completely solve the problem. Panel members suggested that additional measures be taken to minimize the inflow of rainwater and groundwater, such as repairing roofs and other damaged parts of the buildings.
The 1.5-kilometer (1-mile) coolant-filled underground structure was installed around the wrecked reactor buildings to create a frozen soil barrier and keep groundwater from flowing into the heavily radioactive area. The ice wall has been activated in phases since 2016. Frozen barriers around the reactor buildings are now deemed complete.
On Wednesday, TEPCO said the amount of contaminated water that collects inside the reactor buildings was reduced to 95 metric tons per day with the ice wall, compared to nearly 200 tons without one. That is part of the 500 tons of contaminated water created every day at the plant, and the other 300 tons were pumped out via wells, treated and stored in tanks.
In addition to the 35 billion yen ($320 million) construction cost funded by taxpayers’ money, the ice wall needs more than 1 billion yen ($9.5 million) annually in operating and maintenance costs. Critics have been skeptical about the ice wall and suggested that the greater use of wells — a standard groundwater drainage system — would be a cheaper and more proven option.
The plant has been struggling with the ever-growing water — only slightly contaminated after treatment — now totaling 1 million tons and stored in 1,000 tanks, which take up significant space at the complex, where a decades-long decommissioning effort continues. Officials say they aim to further reduce the amount of contaminated water in the reactor buildings before starting to remove melted fuel in 2021.


March 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Regulator urges release of treated Fukushima radioactive water into sea

11 jan 2018 tritium water release pacific NRA.jpg
The chief of Japan’s nuclear regulator said Thursday water at the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant that contains radioactive tritium even after being treated should be released into the sea after dilution.
“We will face a new challenge if a decision (about the release) is not made within this year,” Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa told a local mayor, referring to the more than 1 million tons of coolant water and groundwater that has accumulated at the facility crippled by the 2011 disaster triggered by a devastating quake and tsunami.
As local fishermen are worried about the negative impact from the water discharge, the Japanese government and Fukushima plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. have not made a final decision on the treated water, which is currently stored in tanks.
In his meeting with Yukiei Matsumoto, mayor of Naraha town near the Fukushima plant, Fuketa said, “It is scientifically clear that there will be no influence to marine products or to the environment” following the water release.
The nuclear regulator chief underlined the need for the government and Tepco to quickly make a decision, saying, “It will take two or three years to prepare for the water release into the sea.”
At the Fukushima plant, toxic water is building up partly because groundwater is seeping into the reactor buildings to mix with water made radioactive in the process of cooling the damaged reactors.
Such contaminated water is treated to remove radioactive materials but tritium, a radioactive substance considered relatively harmless to humans, remains in the filtered water as it is difficult to separate even after passing through a treatment process.
At other nuclear power plants, tritium-containing water is routinely dumped into the sea after it is diluted. The regulator has been calling for the release of the water after diluting it to a density lower than standards set by law.
With limited storage space for water tanks, observers warn tritium could start leaking from the Fukushima plant.
On March 11, 2011, tsunami inundated the six-reactor plant, located on ground 10 meters above sea level, and flooded the power supply facilities.
Reactor cooling systems were crippled and the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors suffered fuel meltdowns in the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

January 11, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO Urged to Cut Radioactive Water inside Fukushima N-Plant

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Tokyo, July 19 (Jiji Press)–Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority on Tuesday instructed Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.  to reduce the amount of highly radioactive water inside reactor buildings at its disaster-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The nuclear watchdog also demanded TEPCO lower the water’s radiation levels and consider substantially boosting the number of water storage tanks at the plant in order to lower the risk of the contaminated water leaking out.

Currently, there are tanks only enough to store contaminated water being generated every day mainly due to inflows of groundwater.

Meanwhile, the highly radioactive water inside the No. 1 to No. 4 reactor buildings totaled some 61,600 tons as of Thursday. A lot of tanks would need to be built in order to remove the contaminated water from the buildings.

The highly radioactive water may leak out if tsunami hits the plant again, Toyoshi Fuketa, acting head of the NRA, said, demanding cuts in the amount of the water.

July 19, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment