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Fukushima: How the ocean became a dumping ground for radioactive waste

The nuclear disaster at Fukushima sent an unprecedented amount of radiation into the Pacific. But, before then, atomic bomb tests and radioactive waste were contaminating the sea — the effects are still being felt today.



March 11, 2020

Almost 1.2 million liters (320,000 gallons) of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant is to be released into the ocean. That’s on the recommendation of the government’s advisory panel some nine years after the nuclear disaster on Japan’s east coast. The contaminated water has since been used to cool the destroyed reactor blocks to prevent further nuclear meltdowns. It is currently being stored in large tanks, but those are expected to be full by 2022.

Exactly how the water should be dealt with has become highly controversial in Japan, not least because the nuclear disaster caused extreme contamination off the coast of Fukushima. At the time, radioactive water flowed “directly into the sea, in quantities we have never seen before in the marine world,” Sabine Charmasson from the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) tells DW.

Radiation levels in the sea off Fukushima were millions of times higher than the government’s limit of 100 becquerels. And still today, radioactive substances can be detected off the coast of Japan and in other parts of the Pacific. They’ve even been measured in very small quantities off the US west coast in concentrations “well below the harmful levels set by the World Health Organization,” according to Vincent Rossi, an oceanographer at France’s Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography (MIO).


37863914_401The contaminated water in these storage tanks at Fukushima could be released into the sea as of 2022


15802302_401People observing a minute of silence for the victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami


But that doesn’t mean there’s no risk, says Horst Hamm of the Nuclear Free Future Foundation. “A single becquerel that gets into our body is enough to damage a cell that will eventually become a cancer cell,” he says.

A study from the European Parliament reached a similar conclusion. The research found that “even the smallest possible dose, a photon passing through a cell nucleus, carries a cancer risk. Although this risk is extremely small, it is still a risk.”

And that risk is growing. Radioactive pollution in the ocean has been increasing globally — and not just since the disaster at Fukushima.

Atomic bomb tests

In 1946, the US became the first country to test an atomic bomb in a marine area, in the Pacific Bikini Atoll. Over the next few decades, more than 250 further nuclear weapons tests were carried out on the high seas. Most of them (193) were conducted by France in French Polynesia, and by the US (42), primarily in the Marshall Islands and the Central Pacific. 



But the ocean wasn’t just being used as a training ground for nuclear war. Until the early 1990s, it was also a gigantic dump for radioactive waste from nuclear power plants. 

From 1946 to 1993, more than 200,000 tons of waste, some of it highly radioactive, was dumped in the world’s oceans, mainly in metal drums, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Several nuclear submarines, including nuclear ammunition, were also sunk during this time.

Is the ocean a perfect storage site?

The lion’s share of dumped nuclear waste came from Britain and the Soviet Union, figures from the IAEA show. By 1991, the US had dropped more than 90,000 barrels and at least 190,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste in the North Atlantic and Pacific. Other countries including Belgium, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands also disposed of tons of radioactive waste in the North Atlantic in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

“Under the motto, ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ the dumping of nuclear waste was the easiest way to get rid of it,” says Horst Hamm.

To this day, around 90% of the radiation in the ocean comes from barrels discarded in the North Atlantic, most of which lie north of Russia or off the coast of Western Europe.

“The barrels are everywhere,” says ecologist Yannick Rousselet of Greenpeace France. He was present in 2000 when the environmental organization used submarines to dive for dumped drums a few hundred meters off the coast of northern France, at a depth of 60 meters (196 feet).

“We were surprised how close they were to the coast,” Rousselet says. “They are rusty and leaking, with the radiation clearly elevated.”


52446012_401The radioactive pollution of the oceans began in 1946 when the US tested a nuclear bomb at Bikini Atoll Micronesia.


52446312_401Nuclear waste barrels dumped in the sea decades ago, a common practice in the Channel between France and England in the 1960s, are now rusty and are leaking radioactive substances


Germany also implicated

In 1967, Germany also dumped 480 barrels off the coast of Portugal, according to the IAEA. Responding to a 2012 request for information from the Greens about the condition of those barrels, the German government wrote: “The barrels were not designed to ensure the permanent containment of radionuclides on the sea floor. Therefore, it must be assumed that they are at least partially no longer intact.”

Germany and France don’t want to salvage the barrels. And even Greenpeace activist Yannick Rousselet says he sees “no safe way to lift the rusted barrels” to the surface. That means nuclear waste will likely continue to contaminate the ocean floor for decades to come.

For Horst Hamm, the long-term consequences are clear. The radiation will be “absorbed by the marine animals surrounding it. They will eventually end up caught in fishing nets, and come back to our plates,” he says.

In its 2012 response to the Greens, however, the German government described the risk to humans from contaminated fish as “negligible.”

Rousselet sees things differently: “The entire area along the coast is contaminated by radiation — not just in the sea, in the grass, in the sand, you can measure it everywhere.”


52446337_401The reprocess in plant in La Hague is still discharging radioactive water into the sea. Cancer rates have increased in the region, according to a report by the European Parliament


Radioactive dumping ground

The main reason behind the radiation along the northern French coastline isn’t the underwater barrels, but rather the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant at La Hague. It is located directly on the coast and “legally discharges 33 million liters of radioactive liquid into the sea each year,” says Rousselet. He thinks it’s scandalous.

In recent years, La Hague has also been the scene of several incidents involving increased radioactivity levels.

The dumping of nuclear waste in drums was banned in 1993 by the London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution. But discharging liquid contaminated with radiation into the ocean is still permitted internationally.

Spike in cancer rates

According to a study by the European Parliament, statistics show cancer rates are significantly higher in the region surrounding La Hague. Cancer rates are also high near the nuclear processing plant in Sellafield in northern England. A study from 2014 concluded that the total amount of radioactivity discharged into the sea from the Sellafield plant over the years is equivalent to the amount released by the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima.

The report say a link to health effects “cannot be ruled out” even if there is no clear evidence to date of a link between illness and radioactive discharges from nuclear facilities.

“The exact effects of radioactive radiation are extremely difficult to measure and prove. We only know that it has an impact,” says Rousselet, adding that it’s crucial to walk away from everything that causes radioactive waste.




Dumping more waste at Fukushima

In Fukushima, the operating company of the Tokyo Electric Power Company nuclear plant claims that before the cooling water is discharged into the sea as planned, all 62 radioactive elements will be filtered down to safe levels — except for the isotope tritium. The advisory panel in Tokyo considers discharging the cooling water into the sea to be “safer” than other alternatives, such as evaporating the water.

Just how harmful tritium is to humans is a source of controversy. According to the plant operator, the concentration of tritium in the collection tanks is sometimes much higher than that of conventional cooling water from nuclear power stations.

“The local fishermen and residents cannot accept the discharge of water,” Takami Morita of the National Research Institute of Fisheries Science said in a press release. While fish pollution levels are below the harmful limit, demand for fish from the region has dropped to one-fifth of what it was before the disaster.

Releasing the cooling water into the sea “is a good method because of the diluting properties of the water,” Sabine Charmasson of the IRSN says. “There aren’t any real problems on the security side, but it’s difficult, because there are also social implications. It might be an appropriate method, but it’s never easy to release radioactive substances into the environment.”

In a press release, Greenpeace said: “There is no justification for additional, deliberate radioactive pollution of the marine environment or atmosphere.”

March 13, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Safety of Fukushima nuke plant waste water focus of sea release debate

0001In this Feb. 12, 2020 photo, a worker in a hazmat suit carries a hose at a water treatment facility at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.


March 11, 2020

OKUMA, Japan (AP) — Inside a giant decontamination facility at the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant, workers in hazmat suits monitor radioactive water pumped from three damaged reactors, making sure it’s adequately — though not completely — treated.

Three lines of equipment connected to pipes snaking around in this dimly lit, sprawling facility can process up to 750 tons of contaminated water a day. Four other lines elsewhere in the plant can process more.

From there, the water is pumped to a complex of about 1,000 temporary storage tanks that crowd the plant’s grounds, where additional tanks are still being built. Officials say the huge tanks will be completely full by the summer of 2022.

The decontamination process, which The Associated Press viewed on a recent tour, is a key element of a contentious debate over what should be done with the nearly 1.2 million tons of still-radioactive water being closely watched by governments and organizations around the world ahead of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., or TEPCO, says it needs to free up space as work to decommission the damaged reactors approaches a critical phase. It’s widely expected that TEPCO will gradually release the water into the nearby ocean following a government decision allowing it to do so. The company is still vague on the timing.

But local residents, especially fishermen, are opposed to the plan because they think the water release would hurt the reputation of already battered fisheries, where annual sales remain about half of the level before the nuclear accident, even though the catch has cleared strict radioactivity tests.

TEPCO Chief Decommissioning Officer Akira Ono says the water must be disposed as the plant’s decommissioning moves forward because the area used by the tanks is needed to build facilities for the retrieval of melted reactor debris.

Workers are planning to remove a first batch of melted debris by December 2021. Remote control cranes are dismantling a highly contaminated exhaust tower near Unit 2, the first reactor to get its melted fuel removed. At Unit 3, spent fuel units are being removed from a cooling pool ahead of the removal of melted fuel.

The dilemma over the ever-growing radioactive water is part of the complex aftermath of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that hit on March 11, 2011, destroying key cooling functions at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. Three reactors melted, releasing massive amounts of radiation and forcing 160,000 residents to evacuate. About 40,000 still haven’t returned.

Except for the highly radioactive buildings that house the melted reactors, most above-ground areas of the plant can now be visited while wearing just a surgical mask, cotton gloves, a helmet and a personal dosimeter. The area right outside the plant is largely untouched and radiation levels are often higher.

The underground areas remain a hazardous mess. Radioactive cooling water is leaking from the melted reactors and mixes with groundwater, which must be pumped up to keep it from flowing into the sea and elsewhere. Separately, even more dangerously contaminated water sits in underground areas and leaks continuously into groundwater outside the plant, experts say.

The contaminated water pumped from underground first goes through cesium and strontium removal equipment, after which most is recycled as cooling water for the damaged reactors. The rest is filtered by the main treatment system, known as ALPS, which is designed to remove all 62 radioactive contaminants except for tritium, TEPCO says.

Tritium cannot be removed from water and is ‘virtually’ harmless when consumed in small amounts, ‘according’ to Japan’s industry ministry and nuclear regulatory officials.

But despite repeated official reassurances, there are widespread worries about eating fish that might be affected if the contaminated water is released into the sea. Katsumi Shozugawa, a radiology expert at the University of Tokyo who has been analyzing groundwater around the plant, said the long-term consequences of low-dose exposure in the food chain hasn’t been fully investigated.

“At this point, it is difficult to predict a risk,” he said. “Once the water is released into the environment, it will be very difficult to follow up and monitor its movement. So the accuracy of the data before any release is crucial and must be verified.”

After years of discussions about what to do with the contaminated water without destroying the local economy and its reputation, a government panel issued a report earlier this year that narrowed the water disposal options to two: diluting the treated water to levels below the allowable safety limits and then releasing it into the sea in a controlled way, or allowing the water to evaporate in a years-long process.

The report also urged the government to do more to fight the “reputational damage” to Fukushima fishing and farm produce, for instance by promoting food fairs, developing new sales routes and making use of third-party quality accreditation systems.

TEPCO and government officials promise the plant will treat the water for a second time to meet legal requirements before any release.

At the end of the tour of the treatment facility, a plant official showed a glass bottle containing clear water taken from the processing equipment. Workers are required to routinely collect water samples for analysis at laboratories at the plant. Radiology technicians were analyzing the water at one lab, where AP journalists were not allowed to enter. Officials say the treated water will be diluted with fresh water before it is released into the environment.

Doubts about the plant’s water treatment escalated two years ago when TEPCO acknowledged that most of the water stored in the tanks still contains cancer-causing cesium, strontium and other radioactive materials at levels exceeding safety limits.

Masumi Kowata, who lives in Okuma, a town where part of the plant is located, said some of her neighbors are offering their land so that more storage tanks can be built.

“We should not dump the water until we have proof about its safety,” she said. “The government says it’s safe, but how do we know?”


0002In this Feb. 12, 2020 photo, two workers wearing hazmat suits work at a water treatment facility at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture


0003In this Feb. 12, 2020 photo, a worker removes a plastic layer covering his hazmat suit after working at a water treatment facility at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.


0004In this Feb. 12, 2020 photo, engineers analyze water samples in a lab at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.

gklkIn this Feb. 12, 2020 photo, the No. 1 and 2 reactor buildings, damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, are seen at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.


March 13, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | 1 Comment

Contaminated water at nuclear plant still an issue ahead of Tokyo Olympics


March 10, 2020

Work to deal with contaminated water at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant continues as the Olympic Games approach.

Inside a giant decontamination facility at the destroyed plant, workers in hazmat suits monitor radioactive water pumped from three damaged reactors.

The decontamination process is a key element of a contentious debate over what should be done with the nearly 1.2 million tons of still-radioactive water being closely watched by governments and organisations around the world ahead of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, says it needs to free up space as work to decommission the damaged reactors approaches a critical phase.

It is widely expected that Tepco will gradually release the water into the nearby ocean following a government decision allowing it to do so.

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | 1 Comment

Poll: 57% oppose dumping water into ocean from Fukushima plant

ijolmpTanks storing contaminated water occupy the site of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, in August 2019.

February 28, 2020

Fifty-seven percent of respondents to a poll in Fukushima Prefecture say they oppose the government’s plan to release tons of contaminated water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the ocean.

In the survey, conducted by The Asahi Shimbun and Fukushima Broadcasting Co. on Feb. 22-23, 31 percent supported the plan.

About 1.2 million tons of water contaminated with radioactive substances are in storage tanks at the crippled plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The government plans to remove most of the radioactive substances from the water and release the diluted portion into the ocean.

Among male respondents, 35 percent said they support the plan, compared to 26 percent of female respondents who also agreed.

Respondents who are in their 40s are most likely to support the plan, as 41 percent back the plan.

However, more respondents opposed the plan in every age group.

Asked about damage caused by harmful rumors surrounding the release of the contaminated water, 89 percent of the respondents said they were “very much” or “somewhat” concerned.

Even among those who supported the plan, 79 percent said they were worried about the possible damage.

Only 23 percent said they approved of the central government and TEPCO’s handling of the contaminated water problem. That was up from 14 percent in last year’s survey.

Still, 57 percent of the respondents said they did not approve of the handling of the contaminated water.

The government has committed to disposing of waste substances, including contaminated soil removed in the decontamination work, within 30 years and locating a final waste disposal site outside of Fukushima Prefecture.

We will do our best to keep the promise,” Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi has pledged.

Asked if the promise will be kept, 80 percent of the respondents said they did not think so “at all” or “very much.”

Only 17 percent said they thought the government will keep the promise “very much” or “somewhat.”

Fukushima Prefecture will be the starting point of the months-long nationwide torch relay for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Asked if the relay will contribute to showing the public the current state of the disaster-stricken area, 41 percent said it would, while 51 percent said it would not.

In other questions, 69 percent opposed resuming operations of nuclear power plants that have been idle since the Fukushima nuclear accident, while 11 percent supported it.

In a nationwide survey conducted by The Asahi Shimbun on Feb. 15 and 16, 56 percent opposed the resumption, while 29 percent supported it.

The two media companies have conducted a phone survey of eligible voters in Fukushima Prefecture since the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. The recent survey was the 10th. 

Landline phone numbers were randomly selected by computer and then called by survey staff. Of these, 1,883 belonged to eligible voters. The survey received a total of 1,035 effective responses with the response rate at 55 percent.

March 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | 1 Comment

IAEA chief says Fukushima water release plan meets global standards

n-fukushima-a-20200228-870x579IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi inspects the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on Wednesday.

February 27, 2020

OKUMA, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday that Japan’s plan to release radioactive water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the environment meets global standards for the industry.

The comment by IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, made during a tour of the facility that was devastated by the powerful earthquake and tsunami in 2011, comes amid strong opposition to the plan from local fishermen and neighboring South Korea.

Whatever way forward must be based on a scientific process, a process which is based on a scientifically based and proven methodology,” Grossi told reporters after the tour.

It is obvious that any methodology can be criticized. What we are saying from a technical point of view is that this process is in line with international practice,” he said.

This is a common way to release water at nuclear power plants across the globe, even when they are not in emergency situations, he said.

The government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the operator of the crippled complex, are considering ways to safely dispose of the more than 1 million tons of water contaminated with radioactive materials after being used to cool the melted fuel cores at the plant, which straddles the towns of Okuma and Futaba.

The water, which is increasing at a pace of about 170 tons a day, is being treated using an advanced liquid processing system (ALPS) to remove most contaminants other than the relatively nontoxic tritium. The water is being stored in tanks on the facility’s premises but space is expected to run out by summer 2022.

Methods being discussed include releasing the water into the Pacific Ocean or allowing it to evaporate, both of which the government says will have minimal effect on human health.

But local fishermen have voiced strong opposition to such plans for fear that Japanese consumers would shun seafood caught nearby. South Korea, which currently bans imports of seafood from the area, has also repeatedly voiced concerns about the environmental impact.

Grossi, an Argentine diplomat who succeeded the late Yukiya Amano as IAEA director general in December, said the Vienna-based organization is prepared to help put the international community at ease.

What the IAEA can do, at the request of Japan, is to provide support, advice when the process starts. This can take different forms, for example we can assist in the monitoring of the water previous to its controlled release into the environment,” Grossi said.

In a speech to Tepco employees at the plant, Grossi voiced appreciation for their hard work on the decommissioning process, which is scheduled to end 30 to 40 years after the disaster.

It’s a job of decommissioning but it’s (also) a job of reconstruction,” he said.

Grossi, who is on a five-day trip to Japan, also met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi on Tuesday.

On Thursday, Grossi told reporters in Tokyo that Japan should be flexible on its timeline for removing melted fuel from the wreckage of the Fukushima plant, with safety being the top priority.

The government and Tepco currently plan to begin extracting the highly radioactive debris by the end of 2021, though the process is expected to be fraught with technical challenges.

The issue of the timing is always important … but it’s not a race against time. It is a race, I would say, more against safety. And more safety, this is what is very important,” he said.

March 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

An Olympic-Sized Disaster Is Brewing in Japan

Fukushima_Water_Testing_1088x725-700x470Tokyo Electric Power Company demonstrates how to measure radiation of water processed in ALPS II (Multi-nuclide retrieval equipment) at the tsunami-devastated nuclear power plant, Fukushima, January 22, 2020.

February 24, 2020

The 2020 Summer Olympics are coming to Japan — despite two major health scares: radiation from the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima and, more recently, the coronavirus. Over half of the coronavirus cases outside of China were onboard a cruise ship docked in Japan. (On board, 634 cases; on land, another 93, but these figures constantly change.)

The Japanese government is handling the coronavirus outbreak much the same way China handled it: not by controlling the situation, but by controlling information about the situation. 

And this is the same way the Japanese government is handling the Fukushima crisis. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Olympic Committee that the nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima are not a problem.  

Let me assure you, the situation is under control, he said in 2013. 

That was a lie — one that let Olympic planning proceed by virtue of official denial of nuclear uncertainty with lethal potential.  

And now the Olympics may also be threatened by a health crisis of another sort: Japan’s botched handling of the coronavirus. 

Japan’s official response to this new threat has already drawn criticism, especially for releasing hundreds of possibly exposed passengers from a cruise ship into the general population. The dysfunction of Japan’s response to this crisis is illustrated by the fact that its environment minister skipped a government meeting on the coronavirus outbreak in favor of a political celebration in his home town. The Bangkok Post argues that time is running out on the Tokyo Olympics

Japan needs to rethink the Olympics. The most pressing reason to postpone or cancel the 2020 Tokyo summer games, which are due to start in late July, is a raging public health crisis of unknown dimensions. The second most important reason to put the Olympics on hold is the Japanese government response to the public health crisis to date: it has shown itself to have feet of clay. 

At the same time, organizers of the Tokyo marathon on March 1 have limited participation to about 200 athletes, after originally expecting 38,000. 

Meanwhile, the governor of Fukushima Prefecture was reassuring the public that radiation is no threat to the safety of the Olympic torch run on March 26: Through this ‘Reconstruction Olympics,’ we would like to show how Fukushima’s reconstruction has progressed in the past nine years as the result of efforts in cooperation with the Japanese government.”

“Using Greenpeace’s calculations, people staying near the stadium could be exposed to a greater amount of radiation in just over a day than they would naturally experience in a year.”

There is no way to know how the coronavirus spread will play or what effect, if any, it will have on the Summer Olympics. But it’s clear that the Japanese government has a huge stake in minimizing the perceived threat, exercising a level of denial that mirrors the official reassurances about Fukushima over the past nine years.

Judging by the head of the Australian Olympic Committee’s response, the Japanese reassurances are being taken at face value, albeit with significant caveats:

They’ve made it quite clear to us that there is no case for postponing, cancelling the Games at all … provided that all of the requirements of the Japanese authority on people coming into the Games are followed … We’re very satisfied that all the checks and balances will be there by the time the athletes and the spectators enter the country. 

Although the Tokyo Olympics committee tells everyone that none of the Olympic playing fields are radioactive, there have been reports to the contrary near Fukushima. South Korean athletes plan to bring their own food and radiation detectors. (Australian and US athletes will eat Japanese-prepared meals.)

The Hot Spots

The J-Village National Training Center is an Olympic sports complex that includes a stadium, 11 soccer fields, a swimming pool, a hotel, and conference center — all located about 12 miles from the ruined reactors at Fukushima. 

Last December, the environmental organization Greenpeace published a study documenting radioactive hot spots at J-Village, and found in some areas radiation levels as much as 1,700 times higher than they had been in 2011 before the meltdowns.

Greenpeace also found radiation levels roughly 280 times higher than those promised by the Japanese government. As CNN reported: “Using Greenpeace’s calculations, people staying near the stadium could be exposed to a greater amount of radiation in just over a day than they would naturally experience in a year.”

While Greenpeace found that most of the J-Village site was not highly radioactive, the organization questioned the Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) approach to cleaning up the hot spots at the site:

How were such high levels of radiation not detected during the earlier decontamination by TEPCO? Why were only the most alarming hotspots removed and not the wider areas following the standard decontamination procedures? Given these apparent failures, the ability of the authorities to accurately and consistently identify radiation hot spots appears to be seriously in doubt.

On January 21, Fukushima Prefecture officials issued a statement assuring the public that radiation levels “won’t be posing any problem for holding the torch relay,” and that radiation exposure would be less than the exposure during a flight from New York to Tokyo. 

The statement provided no details explaining any ongoing safety measures: what measures had been taken to decontaminate hot spots, what effort was being made to search out other hotspots, or any other details of decontamination procedures.

A Disaster in Slow Motion

The 2011 nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima may now be widely ignored or forgotten, but the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains an evolving, multi-faceted disaster proceeding in slow motion. Radiation is constantly leaking from the nuclear complex where three melted nuclear cores remain a threat should they lose the water that keeps the meltdowns from reigniting.

For now there’s ample water to keep the cores cool, mainly because TEPCO has jury-rigged enough plumbing in the damaged plants to continue pumping water that keeps the cores and fuel pools covered and the meltdowns in check. No one really knows the configuration of the cores, which are presumably in a molten heap on the floor of the containment building, with lethal levels of radioactivity. Robots have made some contact with the cores, but their safe removal is years away.

TEPCO must continue to pump water to keep the cores cool for the indefinite future. As it’s pumped through the system, the fresh water becomes too radioactive itself to release into the environment. So the authorities have been storing this water in giant on-site tanks — now more than 1,000. 

They say they’ll run out of room for more tanks in another year or so. The tanks currently hold an estimated 1.2 million tons — more than 300 million gallons — of radioactive water that continues to accumulate at an estimated rate of 1,000 tons (265,000 gallons) or more per week.

No Solution in Sight

TEPCO, which owns the Fukushima complex, and the Japanese government understand the problem well enough, but they have yet to find a reasonable solution. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) overseeing the Fukushima operation calls for replacing the temporary storage tanks with a permanent solution. Although no feasible permanent solution exists, three have been proposed: Evaporate the water, bury the water deep underground, or pump the water into the Pacific. There is no consensus in support of any of these. 

The Japanese government and TEPCO have been advocating the Pacific Ocean dumping solution for more than two years. Authorities say the water has been decontaminated, but this has never been true. At best, the water contains high levels of radioactive, carcinogenic tritium. The filtration device used on the water, the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), is unable to remove tritium. 

In 2017, TEPCO was claiming that ALPS had cleaned the water of every radionuclide other than tritium. That was not true. In August 2018, TEPCO admitted that the treated water still contained radioactive contaminants including iodine, cesium, and strontium, some of them above officially designated safe levels.




As the IAEA has documented, the authorities have released controlled amounts of radioactive water from Fukushima into the Pacific for years. Additionally, uncontrolled radioactive groundwater has flowed into the Pacific continuously since the 2011 disaster, although that flow has been substantially reduced. As the Fukushima site runs out of storage space, the campaign to release 300 million gallons of radioactive wastewater into the Pacific has intensified.

In November 2019, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published a status report on Fukushima that began:

After more than eight years, Japan is still struggling with [the] aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The Japanese government and nuclear industry have not solved the many technical, economic, and socio-political challenges brought on by the accident. More worrying, they continue to put special interests ahead of the public interest, exacerbating the challenges and squandering public trust.

Among the problems at Fukushima, the Bulletin cited a highly radioactive exhaust stack that is at risk of collapse and needs to be carefully removed. In 2019, in its first attempt to remove the stack, TEPCO constructed a tower that was three meters too short to do the job. Other glitches have plagued this operation, which is ongoing.

The Bulletin also noted that a subcommittee of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry recommended dumping treated wastewater with a low level of tritium into the Pacific. However, this plan was stalled by the authorities’ failure to reduce radioactivity to safe levels — or to tell the truth about it.

Releasing Fukushima radioactive water into ocean is an appalling act of industrial vandalism.”

Further complicating the clean-up at Fukushima, according to the Bulletin, is that none of the institutions involved is a disinterested party and none is willing to accept “a truly independent third party to oversee their activities.”

In December 2019, the New York Times approached the Fukushima story from the perspective of a fisherman whose life has been devastated by the disaster. The fishing industry is operating at about one-fifth the capacity of its pre-meltdown level and is one of the strongest opponents of more dumping. According to the Times:

The water from the Fukushima disaster is more radioactive than the authorities have previously publicized, raising doubts about government assurances that it will be made safe … Some scientists said they would need proof before believing that the Fukushima water was treated to safe levels.

Team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo looks at part of a system that removes radioactive elements from water. Fukushima, Japan, February 11, 2015.

The government official in charge of contaminated-water management acknowledged public concern about the issue, “even though there is no scientific evidence that the water is dangerous.” As if to reinforce that opinion, TEPCO officials hosted a media tour of the Fukushima plant on January 29. Radioactivity on the site is varied, but workers mostly wear protective gear and some jobs are so dangerous only robots are used.

On January 31, after six years of consideration, an advisory panel made a preliminary recommendation to the government to release Fukushima wastewater into the Pacific. The panel decided that this was better than the only alternative they considered feasible: evaporating the water. The recommendation has to be approved by panel chair Ichiro Yamamoto, a step required before the government considers it

There should be no delays to decommissioning the plant,” Yamamoto said. There is no reliable estimate as to how long decommissioning the plant’s damaged fuel pools and melted-down reactors will take, but it will surely run to decades. TEPCO’s own timeline stretches past 2050.

On February 3, the Japanese Foreign Ministry briefed 28 diplomats from 23 countries about the proposed radioactive-water dumping into the Pacific. The US did not participate in the briefing. The ministry assured the diplomats that “release of tainted water from Fukushima would have no impact on oceans.” According to the ministry, none of the diplomats voiced any objection to the proposal. The government plans to hold hearings on the proposal.

Reacting to the briefing, Common Dreams (a nonprofit US-based progressive news website) reported: “Nuclear policy expert Paul Dorfman said Saturday, ‘Releasing Fukushima radioactive water into ocean is an appalling act of industrial vandalism.’ Greenpeace opposes the plan as well.”

While South Korea may not have spoken up at the Fukushima briefing, it maintains a ban on Fukushima fish, and closely monitors other produce from Fukushima and seven neighboring prefectures (administrative areas) north and south of it.

Happy Talk

Current media coverage of Fukushima, where it exists, is mostly happy talk about the Olympics and how safe the country has become in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Radiation that will persist for thousands of years and quiescent nuclear reactors whose meltdowns could reignite any time something else goes wrong are largely ignored.

Wildlife is thriving in radioactive Fukushima,” according to the Wildlife Society of Bethesda, MD, on February 6, 2020. The Society’s reporting is based on a 2020 study published by the Ecological Society of America in Washington, DC. The limited study used remote sensors to gather data from areas radiologically unsafe for humans (in the so-called human-evacuation zone). 

The study found that the radioactive region was repopulated with native mammals and birds, but could reach no conclusion regarding the impact of radiation on individuals or any of their molecular structure. According to the abstract:

Using a network of remote cameras placed along a gradient of radiological contamination and human presence, we collected data on population‐level impacts to wildlife (that is, abundance and occupancy patterns) following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. We found no evidence of population‐level impacts in mid‐to large‐sized mammals or gallinaceous birds, and show several species were most abundant in human‐evacuated areas, despite the presence of radiological contamination. These data provide unique evidence of the natural rewilding of the Fukushima landscape following human abandonment, and suggest that if any effects of radiological exposure in mid‐to-large‐sized mammals in the Fukushima Exclusion Zone exist, they occur at individual or molecular scales…. 

In other words, the researchers have no idea whether or not these populations are “thriving,” only that they appear to have reestablished themselves in pre-meltdown numbers in areas still deemed unsafe for humans.

March 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Releasing radioactive water would further damage Fukushima’s reputation

n-sato-a-20200226-870x580Fukushima’s fishing industry was one of the prefecture’s hardest-hit sectors following the March 2011 nuclear disaster.

Feb 25, 2020

Releasing the treated radioactive water stored at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant risks further damage to the disaster-hit prefecture’s reputation and negates the nine-year effort to dispel negative perceptions about local agricultural produce, fisheries and tourism.

Although the government is considering dumping the water into the ocean, it should find a different solution and listen to the concerns of the people of Fukushima and local industries.

As the governor of Fukushima Prefecture between 2006 and 2014, I had my work cut out for me after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident in March 2011.

Some of my main challenges after the disaster were securing the safety of the residents, ensuring they had access to evacuation shelters, managing the whereabouts of 160,000 evacuees scattered in and out of the prefecture and deciding on the site for interim storage of the soil and waste generated by the decontamination effort.

Determining the site was very difficult, but in the end the towns of Okuma and Futaba, which co-host the crippled nuclear power plant, honorably made the agonizing decision to accommodate it on condition that the tainted waste would be moved to a final disposal site outside of Fukushima within 30 years after the storage began.

During my term, I visited South Korea and China in 2012 to explain to local media using scientific facts that Fukushima produce is safe. I also helped arrange for several national and international conferences to be held in Fukushima Prefecture, based on the belief that coming to the prefecture and trying the local food was the best way to reassure guests that the area was safe and secure.

In December 2012, I lured an International Atomic Energy Agency meeting to the prefecture. Hundreds of nuclear specialists, ministers and other dignitaries from around the world gathered to share the lessons from the nuclear disaster and discuss the need to reinforce nuclear safety.

Today, nearly a decade after the disaster, Fukushima’s reputation is recovering — but only to a limited extent.

Although the government has prioritized ensuring security based on scientific facts, the public sense of security has yet to be restored.

Notwithstanding the central and prefectural government’s message about safety from radiation, local produce still carries cheaper price tags than those from other prefectures and the number of school trips to Fukushima has not bounced back to pre-disaster levels.

The fishing industry along the eastern coast, which the nuclear power plant faces, has taken one of the biggest hits from the negative perception of Fukushima. The prices of fish caught off the prefecture are extremely low when they are brought to Tokyo.

Fukushima is one of the major rice producers in Japan. After the disaster, officials began to check all of the prefecture’s annual output of around 10 million bags of rice for radioactive materials. The blanket testing takes a lot of effort. Even though the inspection confirms the products’ safety, they are cheaper just because they come from Fukushima.

I heard that farmers in the western region of Aizu — one of the main rice producers in the prefecture — asked the agricultural cooperative to use Aizu labels, rather than those of Fukushima, to avoid stigma. The neighborhood is located more than 100 kilometers from the area that hosts the power plant.

According to the Consumer Affairs Agency, the share of people in Tokyo and other metropolitan areas who said they hesitate to buy food products from Fukushima due to radiation contamination fears was 12.5 percent in February 2019.

The stigma from the nuclear disaster has beleaguered tourism in Aizu, which is finally showing signs of recovery. Because the name of the Fukushima nuclear power plant contains Fukushima, it gives the inevitable impression that the entire prefecture is contaminated with radiation.

Discharging water containing radioactive tritium — which cannot be removed by the current filtering technology — into the environment would only exacerbate these problems. Even though the government insists that releasing the water into the ocean is safe, some in Japan and abroad have yet to change their perceptions of Fukushima.

Gaining the understanding of local residents about the release method would be difficult. Rice farmers, for example, have suffered ever since the disaster. Their prime Koshihikari brand of rice, which was the nation’s second-most popular after Niigata’s before the disaster, used to sell out quickly.

Fukushima is a few more steps away from convincing consumers that its agriculture, forestry and fisheries products are safe and secure, so I want the government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to prioritize the opinions of people in these key industries when discussing the issue of releasing the water.

When I was governor, the government and Tepco started to curb the amount of water being tainted with radioactive particles because the storage tanks, which could hold 1,000 tons of water each, filled up in just two days.

Doing so required preventing groundwater from flowing into the reactor buildings. We set up an impermeable wall of frozen soil around the reactor buildings to stem the flow of groundwater into the area, but this method did not work well at first.

So we used other approaches to divert groundwater away from the reactors. The combination of the methods reduced water flowing into the buildings from 450 tons to 130 tons a day.

But now the tanks are nearing their capacity, with Tepco estimating that they will reach that point by around the summer of 2022.

I understand that we cannot keep building storage tanks for the water. There is a limit to their capacity.

However, this dilemma calls for pooling scientific and other expertise from around the world to explore potential solutions, while building trust with local residents.

Tepco, which created the problem, and the government should take on the bulk of that task.

February 27, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Is ocean discharge the best solution to Fukushima No. 1’s water crisis?

A government panel has said that releasing radioactive water accumulating at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the ocean is the most reliable option

Japan Nuclear Flawed Cleanup


Feb 25, 2020

The issue of what to do with the treated radioactive water being stored at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant is nearing its boiling point. Despite plans to install more tanks by the end of the year, the plant’s operator is projected to run out of space around summer 2022.

The estimate by the plant’s manager, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., underscores the fast approaching deadline for the tanks, which now number 1,000.

For three years, an industry ministry panel has been examining five disposal methods for the treated water. In December the number of options was reduced to three: diluting it and dumping it into the sea; letting it evaporate; or a combination of both.

In a report to the government on Feb. 10, the panel recommended releasing the water into the ocean as a more “reliable” method than evaporation, given the practice is common at nuclear power plants here and around the world, and said radiation monitoring would be easier.

One of the major concerns, however, is whether it is safe to discharge the water, which is contaminated mainly with tritium that cannot be removed by ALPS, the advanced liquid processing system installed after the triple-core meltdown in March 2011.

Proponents insist dumping will be safe, arguing that tritium emits beta radiation so weak that the health risks posed will be minimal. The industry ministry estimates that even if all the stored water were to be released into the environment over a one-year period, the resulting radiation exposure would be less than a thousandth of that received from natural background radiation.

Both methods have track records.

Since both volume and radiation levels can be regulated, ocean discharge of tritiated water is a method routinely practiced at nuclear power plants around the world.

Despite scientists’ emphasis on safety, however, opponents argue that either method will again hurt Fukushima’s image, damaging the agriculture, fishing and tourism industries that were just starting to recover from the disaster. The panel noted that risk in its report.

Among Fukushima’s hardest-hit sectors since the disaster is the fisheries industry, which is vehemently opposed to ocean release. They fear the water dumps will ruin a nearly decadelong effort to restore the once-thriving industry, which was forced to halt or restrict operations in waters near the plant.

For the past nine years, fishermen have been conducting operations on a trial basis and measuring catches for radiation before shipping. Amid signs of a recovery, they are now talking about full resumption of fishing.

Because of deep-seated negative perceptions, however, some people still avoid buying fish from Fukushima.

The government is facing a difficult decision balancing the interests of the industries with the shortage of storage space.

February 27, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | 1 Comment

South Korean activists and professors sign petition against Japan’s push to dump radioactive water into the ocean

There needs to be a public open debate regarding what to do with the water BEFORE another high magnitude earthquake makes ithe decision for us. There are no easy answers but such a debate will at least serve to highlight the perils of all things nuclear. Pretending everything will be OK is not a credible strategy.


February18, 2020

Activists, professors, and civic groups have united to lambast Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his push to dump radioactively contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the ocean. Referring to such an action as “nuclear terrorism against humanity and a criminal act,” 100 professors, civic group members, and environmental activists have signed a petition calling for Abe to immediately abandon his plans for the dump. The photo shows an artist painting palm prints on a drawing of Abe in protest. (Kim Wan, staff reporter)

February 23, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Japan tries to explain to embassies that releasing Fukushima Radioactive water into ocean is ‘safe’


Japan assures diplomats tainted Fukushima water is safe

Feb. 3 (UPI) — The Japanese government said Monday the planned release of tainted water from Fukushima would have no impact on oceans.

During an information session for foreign embassy officials in Tokyo, the Japanese foreign ministry sent signals of reassurance regarding a plan to release tritium-tainted water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the Mainichi Shimbun and Kyodo News reported.

A total of 28 diplomats representing 23 countries were in attendance, according to reports.

The water comes from Fukushima, where 170 tons of water is contaminated every day at the plant that was severely damaged during a catastrophic earthquake in March 2011. Water has been poured to cool the melted fuel, according to Kyodo.

Japan has been purifying the contaminated water using an advanced liquid processing system, or ALPS. The process does not remove tritium and leaves traces of radioactive elements.

Tokyo has defended its plan to release the water, but neighboring countries, including South Korea, are opposed to the measure.

On Monday, officials from Japan’s ministry of economy, trade and industry said they do not think there would be an impact on surrounding countries.

Japanese fishermen also oppose the measure. Releasing the water into the ocean could affect sales of local seafood, they say.

Japan is planning to release the tritium-tainted water at a time when it is taking stricter measures against travelers from China.

Jiji Press reported Monday Japan turned away five foreign nationals originating from Hubei Province following new restrictions at the border.

Foreigners who have stayed in the Chinese province in the past 14 days or who hold passports issued in the province are banned from entry, according to the report.

Japan has confirmed 20 coronavirus cases since the outbreak in China in December. Japanese airports have built new quarantine stations exclusively for travelers from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, according to local press reports.


Japan tries to explain to embassies merits of releasing Fukushima water into ocean

February 4, 2020

TOKYO – The Japanese government on Monday tried to impress upon embassy officials from nearly two dozen countries the merits of a plan to release radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the ocean.

A briefing session was held at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo to give an update on how more than 1 million tons of water that have been treated and kept in tanks at the crippled complex will be disposed of as storage space is quickly running out.

Both releasing the water into the Pacific Ocean and evaporating it are “feasible methods” as there are precedents for them in and out of Japan, though the former, in particular, could be carried out “with certainty” because it would be easier to monitor radiation levels, the government explained.

It has said the health risks to humans would be “significantly small,” as discharging the water over a year would amount to between just one-1,600th to one-40,000th of the radiation that humans are naturally exposed to.

But the discharge could cause reputational damage to the fishing and farming industries in the surrounding area, raising the need for countermeasures, the government said in the briefing, which came after the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on Friday submitted a draft report on the methods to a subcommittee on the issue.

About 170 tons of water is contaminated at the Fukushima plant every day as it is poured onto the wreckage to cool the melted fuel or as it passes through as groundwater.

The contaminated water is being purified using an advanced liquid processing system, or ALPS, though the process does not remove tritium and has been found to leave small amounts of other radioactive materials.

Tanks used to store the treated water are expected to reach capacity by summer 2022.

Local fishermen have voiced opposition to releasing the water into the ocean out of fears that consumers would stop buying seafood caught nearby. Neighboring countries, including South Korea, which currently bans seafood imports from the area, have also expressed unease.

But no embassy officials voiced such concerns at Monday’s briefing, according to the industry ministry.

The briefing was attended by 28 embassy officials from 23 countries and regions — Afghanistan, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Britain, Cambodia, Canada, Cyprus, East Timor, France, Germany, Italy, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Moldova, Panama, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey and the European Union.

February 6, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘An Appalling Act of Industrial Vandalism’: Japanese Officials Do PR for Plan to Dump Fukushima Water Into Ocean

The Japanese government told embassy officials from nearly two dozen countries that releasing the water into the ocean was a “feasible” approach that could be done “with certainty.”

fukushima-embassy-officials-dump-water-oceanStorage tanks for radioactive water stand at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant on Jan. 29, 2020 in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. Tepco hosted a media tour to the nuclear plant wrecked by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

February 03, 2020

As cleanup of the 2011 Fukushima disaster continues, the Japanese government made its case to embassy officials from 23 countries Monday that dumping contaminated water from the nuclear power plant into the ocean is the best course of action.

According to Kyodo News, officials from the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry claimed releasing the water and evaporating it are both “feasible methods” but said the former could be done “with certainty” because radiation levels could be monitored.

There’s more than one million tons of contaminated water already stored at the plant, with 170 tons more added each day. Utility TEPCO says there will be no more capacity for tanks holding contaminated water by 2022.

As Agence France-Presse reported, “The radioactive water comes from several different sources—including water used for cooling at the plant, and groundwater and rain that seeps into the plant daily—and is put through an extensive filtration process.”

That process still leaves tritium in the water and “has been found to leave small amounts of other radioactive materials,” Kyodo added.

The session for embassy officials followed Friday’s recommendation by a Japanese government panel that releasing the water into the ocean was the most feasible plan. As Reuters reported Friday:

The panel under the industry ministry came to the conclusion after narrowing the choice to either releasing the contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean or letting it evaporate—and opted for the former. Based on past practice it is likely the government will accept the recommendation.

Local fishermen oppose the plan and Reuters noted it is “likely to alarm neighboring countries.”

They’re not alone.

Nuclear policy expert Paul Dorfman said Saturday, “Releasing Fukushima radioactive water into ocean is an appalling act of industrial vandalism.”

Greenpeace opposes the plan as well.

Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist the group’s German office, has previously called on Japanese authorities to “commit to the only environmentally acceptable option for managing this water crisis, which is long-term storage and processing to remove radioactivity, including tritium.”

February 6, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s METI recommends releasing Fukushima Daiichi radioactive water into sea

That substance is not ‘water’. It is liquid radioactive waste. It is radioactive water with tritium, radioactive Cesium and Strontium, and other nasty toxic stuff. So better call it ‘waste’ not ‘water’…
Some neighboring countries have also voiced their opposition to the idea of discharging the water into the ocean or atmosphere, citing environmental concerns
A subcommittee under the industry ministry holds a meeting Friday in Tokyo. It recommends releasing treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant into the ocean.
Japan’s METI recommends releasing Fukushima radioactive water into sea
Jan 31, 2020
The industry ministry Friday recommended releasing treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant into the ocean, saying it would be preferable to releasing it into the atmosphere by boiling it.
The government has been exploring ways to dispose of more than 1 million tons of water used to cool the melted-down cores at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, including groundwater near the site, as the complex is running out of storage space.
The water is being treated using an advanced liquid processing system, or ALPS, before being stored in tanks at the plant. But this does not remove tritium and has been found to leave small amounts of other radioactive materials.
Local fishermen have voiced strong opposition to releasing the water into the ocean, saying consumers will be afraid to buy seafood caught in the area.
Both methods of releasing the water are “realistic options,” the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry told a government subcommittee Friday, but noted that dumping the water into the ocean would make it easier to monitor radiation levels.
This method could be carried out “with more certainty,” it said, because the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., already carried out the process, albeit on a much smaller scale, prior to the powerful earthquake and tsunami that triggered the triple meltdown at the Fukushima plant in March 2011.
The ministry has said the health effects of either approach would be minimal, estimating it would result in between 0.052 and 0.62 microsievert annually for a discharge into the ocean, and 1.3 microsieverts if released into the atmosphere. That compares with the 2,100 microsieverts people are exposed to daily in a normal living environment, according to the ministry.
Other methods the subcommittee has considered include injecting the water deep into the ground, solidifying and burying it, and extracting only the hydrogen and releasing it into the atmosphere.
Meanwhile, the ministry stressed the importance of gaining the understanding of the local community before making a decision, and of preventing the spread of misinformation that would raise undue fears.
The amount of the water is increasing by about 150 tons per day and Tepco is fast running out of tanks to store it in. The utility is looking to expand capacity to 1.37 million tons by the end of 2020, but has no plans beyond then.
An employee of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) holds a geiger counter to measure radiation on the top floor of the company’s reactor Number 3 at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture.
Japan panel finds Fukushima nuclear plant water release to sea is best option
Jan 31, 2020
A Japanese government panel on Friday roughly accepted a draft proposal for releasing into the sea massive amounts of radioactive water now being stored at the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant.
The economy and industry ministry’s draft proposal said releasing the water gradually into the sea was the safer, more feasible method, though evaporation was also a proven method. The proposal in coming weeks will be submitted to the government for further discussion to decide when and how the water should be released.
Nearly nine years after the 2011 meltdowns of three reactor cores at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, it was a small step toward deciding what to do with the water and follows expert recommendations.
It is meant to solve a growing problem for the plant’s operator stuck between limited storage space for the water and an imminent backlash from the public and possibly neighbouring countries.
A Japanese government panel on Friday said releasing into the sea massive amounts of radioactive water now being stored at the tsunami-wrecked the nuclear plant was the safer, more feasible method.
Fishermen and residents fear possible health effects from releasing the radioactive water as well as harm to the region’s image and fishing and farm industry.
The water has been treated, and the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), says all 62 radioactive elements it contains can be removed to levels not harmful to humans, except for tritium. Experts say there is no established method to fully separate tritium from water, but it is not a problem in small amounts. Government officials also say tritium is routinely released from existing nuclear power plants around the world.
In Friday’s proposal, the ministry said the controlled release to the sea is superior because its travelling route is predictable and easier to sample and monitor. The method, however, could immensely impact Fukushima’s still-struggling fishing industry.
The report acknowledges the water releases would harm industries that still face reluctant consumers despite diligent safety checks. It promised to reinforce monitoring of tritium levels and food safety checks in order to address safety concerns.
In 2011, three of Fukushima Dai-ichi’s reactor cores melted down following a tsunami.
TEPCO currently stores about 1.08 million tonnes of radioactive water and only has space to hold up to 1.24 million tonnes, or until the summer of 2022. The water — leakage of cooling water from damaged reactors mixed with contaminated groundwater — has accumulated since the accident.
The report ruled out long-term storage outside the plant — a method favoured by many Fukushima residents. It cited difficulties obtaining permission from landowners and transportation challenges, as well as the risk of leakage from corrosion, a tsunami or other disasters and accidents.

February 1, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Japan could decide on fate of radioactive waste water before the Olympics in July

In this Oct. 12, 2017, photo, ever-growing amount of contaminated, treated but still slightly radioactive, water at the wrecked Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is stored in about 900 huge tanks, including those seen in this photo taken during a plant tour at Fukushima Daiichi
January 25, 2020
Japanese officials say a decision on how to deal with radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant could come before the Tokyo Olympics begin in July.
The Tokyo Electric Company, or TEPCO, operates Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant. Three reactors there suffered meltdowns after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami shut the plant’s cooling systems. The accident forced 160,000 people to flee contaminated areas around the plant.
TEPCO officials recently guided a Reuters reporter around the plant, which covers about 3.5 million square meters in northeast Japan. The reporter described large cranes being used to break up major parts of the plant’s structure. The reporter also described operations aimed at removing spent fuel from a reactor.
Overall, about 4,000 people are taking part in the cleanup effort, Reuters reported. Some Olympic events are set to take place within 60 kilometers of the destroyed plant, Reuters said.
One major part of the cleanup has involved treating and storing contaminated water from the area. TEPCO has predicted that Fukushima will run out of all its storage space for water by 2022.
Workers are seen near storage tanks for radioactive water at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan January 15, 2020. Picture taken January 15, 2020.
A government group studying future storage solutions said last month that it had decided on two main possible solutions. One solution is to treat the water and then control its release into the Pacific Ocean. The other would be to let the water evaporate.
Japanese experts say the government may decide on a solution within the next few months. Either process is expected to take years to complete.
Joji Hara is a Tokyo-based spokesman for the power company. He told Reuters that TEPCO has already been making preparations to inform the public about any developments related to Fukushima.
“The Olympics are coming, so we have to prepare for that, and TEPCO has to disclose all the information – not only to local communities but also to foreign countries and especially to those people coming from abroad,” Hara said.
A Tokyo 2020 banner stands in front of the Azuma Baseball Stadium, a venue for baseball and softball at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019, in Fukushima, Fukushima prefecture, Japan. The torch relay for the Tokyo Olympics will kick off…
He added that TEPCO had already opened English-language Twitter and Facebook accounts for that purpose. TEPCO is also preparing to put out emergency information in Korean and Chinese, Hara said.
Reuters reported that athletes from at least one country — South Korea — have said they plan to bring their own radiation detectors and food during the Olympics.
Olympic baseball and softball games will be played in Fukushima City, about 60 kilometers from the nuclear plant.
Storage tanks for radioactive water are seen at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, Feb. 18, 2019.
The Olympic torch will be carried through a sports center called J-Village. The center served as an operations base for the Fukushima nuclear plant during the first years after the disaster. The torch will then pass through areas near the destroyed power station on its way to Tokyo.
Last month, the environmental group Greenpeace said it found radiation “hotspots” at J-Village, about 18 kilometers south of the plant.
When Tokyo was chosen for the 2020 Summer Olympics, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared that Fukushima was “under control” and would not affect activities related to the Games.

February 1, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan faces decision over contaminated Fukushima water

hglmThe dismantling of Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant continues in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, on Dec. 5, 2019.


January 21, 2020

OKUMA, Fukushima Prefecture—At the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant north of Tokyo, workers in protective suits are still removing radioactive material from reactors that melted down after an earthquake and tsunami knocked out its power and cooling nearly nine years ago.

On an exclusive tour of the plant, spread over 3.5 million square meters, Reuters witnessed giant remote-controlled cranes dismantling an exhaust tower and other structures in a highly radioactive zone while spent fuel was removed from a reactor.

Officials from Tokyo Electric, which owns the plant, also showed new tanks to hold increasing amounts of contaminated water.

About 4,000 workers are tackling the cleanup, many wearing protective gear, although more than 90 percent of the plant is deemed to have so little radioactivity that no extra precautions are needed. Photography was highly restricted and no conversations were allowed with the workers.

Work to dismantle the plant has taken nearly a decade so far, but with Tokyo due to host the Olympics this summer–including some events less than 60 kilometers from the power station–there has been renewed focus on safeguarding the venues.

TEPCO tries to disclose all information to the public as soon as possible. If something happens at the site, we let people know by email, for example,” said Kan Nihonyanagi, risk communicator at Fukushima, said in an interview at the site.

The buildup of contaminated water has been a sticking point in the cleanup, which is likely to last decades, and has alarmed neighboring countries. In 2018, TEPCO said it had not been able to remove all dangerous material from the water – and the site is running out of room for storage tanks.

Officials overseeing a panel of experts looking into the contaminated water issue said in December choices on disposal should be narrowed to two: either dilute the water and dump it in the Pacific Ocean, or allow it to evaporate.

The Japanese government may decide within months, and either process would take years to complete, experts say.

The Olympics are coming, so we have to prepare for that, and TEPCO has to disclose all the information not only to local communities but also to foreign countries and especially to those people coming from abroad,” said Joji Hara, a Tokyo-based spokesman for the power company who accompanied Reuters during the visit.

TEPCO has opened English-language Twitter and Facebook accounts, he said. It is also preparing to put out basic emergency information in Korean and Chinese, he added.

Athletes from at least one country, South Korea, are planning to bring their own radiation detectors and food this summer.

Baseball and softball will be played in Fukushima city, about 60 km from the destroyed nuclear plant. The torch relay will begin at a sports facility called J-Village, an operations base for Fukushima No. 1 in the first few years of the disaster, then pass through areas near the damaged station on its way to Tokyo.

In December, Greenpeace said it found radiation “hotspots” at J-Village, about 18 km south of the plant.

When Tokyo won the bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared that Fukushima was “under control” in his final pitch to the International Olympic Committee.

In 2016, the Japanese government estimated that the total cost of plant dismantlement, decontamination of affected areas, and compensation would be 21.5 trillion yen ($195 billion)–roughly a fifth of the country’s annual budget at the time.


January 21, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

S. Korea, US Discuss Fukushima Wastewater, Marine Issues


January 17, 2020

South Korea and the U.S. held a director-level meeting on maritime and environment issues in Seoul on Thursday.

According to the Foreign Ministry on Friday, the two sides discussed the possibility of Japan releasing contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster site into the ocean.

They also shared views on ways to preserve marine environments.

The two sides discussed how they plan to reduce marine debris and ways to open the Seventh International Marine Debris Conference in South Korea in 2022.

During the meeting, South Korea called on the U.S. to swiftly take steps to remove South Korea from its preliminary list of countries that engage in illegal, unreported, and unregulated(IUU) fishing.

South Korea was designated as a preliminary IUU fishing country by the U.S. after two South Korean fishing boats violated closed fishing grounds and operated near Antarctica in 2017.

January 21, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , , | Leave a comment