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Japan should leave radioactive water in current storage tanks

Hajime Matsukubo, general-secretary of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, says an ocean dump doesn’t make sense

7715976536687178Hajime Matsukubo, general secretary of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC)

Aug.17,2020

What’s the most practical and safest way to handle the radioactive water being stored at Fukushima? According to Hajime Matsukubo, general-secretary of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), the contaminated water should be left in the aboveground tanks where it’s currently being stored. In a recent email interview with the Hankyoreh, Matsukubo said it doesn’t make sense to release the water into the ocean just because the tanks are running low on space.

The CNIC is a Japanese NGO that was set up in 1975 under nuclear physicist Jinzaburo Takagi, a leading figure in the campaign against nuclear power in Japan. Matsukubo is an active researcher, lecturer, and publisher of materials related to the anti-nuclear movement. The interview is presented below.

Hankyoreh (Hani): When do you think the final decision will be made about dumping the contaminated water at Fukushima into the ocean?

Hajime Matsukubo: TEPCO [Tokyo Electric Power Company] says it will dilute the contaminated water before dumping it into the ocean, which means that a dilution facility would have to be built. Given the time required to get a building permit, I think the final decision will be made this summer or fall.

Japan wants an ocean dump because it’s the cheapest option

Hani: Why do you think the Japanese government is pushing so hard to dump the water into the ocean?

Matsukubo: Not only Japan but all countries that operate nuclear reactors end up with tritium as a byproduct, which they then release into the ocean or the atmosphere. I see this decision as an extension of that. Another factor is that releasing the water into the ocean is the cheapest option.

Hani: There seems to be considerable opposition to the plan in Japan as well.

Matsukubo: Many citizens are opposed to it. Pushback has been particularly strong from fishermen, who are likely to be harmed by the rumors [about the danger of the radioactive matter being released, which could cause people not to visit or eat food from Fukushima]. Lawmakers at city councils in Fukushima Prefecture have adopted a series of resolutions voicing concerns about releasing the contaminated water.

Hani: Do you think that negative public opinion in Japan is capable of changing government policy?

Matsukubo: Since the fishermen are direct stakeholders, I think their opposition will have a big impact. TEPCO has promised not to release the water without the consent of local communities in Fukushima. I think the key is opposing voices in Japan and increasing pressure from overseas.

Hani: Do South Korea or environmental groups in other countries have any way to sanction Japan for releasing contaminated water into the ocean?

Matsukubo: They could consider filing a lawsuit based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. But a large amount of tritium is already being released from Korea’s nuclear plants, especially the Wolseong plant. It would be rather difficult to prove that contaminated water released from Fukushima Daiichi [No. 1] is having an impact.

There’s plenty of land that could be used for additional storage

Hani: What’s the most practical and safest way to deal with the contaminated water?

Matsukubo: The contaminated water at Fukushima should be left in the aboveground tanks where it’s currently being stored. [The government] says there’s no more room at Fukushima Daiichi, but there is. There’s a huge amount of land that could be used to store the radioactive wastewater. While the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry says that land can’t be appropriated for other uses, the government [could and] should negotiate with the landowners. It’s absurd to dump radioactive water into the ocean because there’s not enough storage space in the tanks. Japanese NGOs are suggesting that the government continue storing the water in the aboveground tanks and seal them off with concrete. They’re warning the government that releasing the water into the ocean would create international problems.

S. Korea, Japan both need to reassess their reprocessing plans

Hani: Do you have a message for South Korea’s civic society?

Matsukubo: The Japanese government is pursuing a policy of creating a nuclear fuel cycle that would recycle plutonium and uranium from the spent nuclear fuel produced by reactors. This policy requires reprocessing plants that are currently under construction at Rokkasho, in Aomori Prefecture, which are supposed to begin operations in 2021. These plants will release a large amount of radioactive matter into the ocean and the atmosphere. In terms of tritium alone, the amount released will be 10 times worse than the contaminated water at Fukushima Daiichi. That’s a very serious problem, just as releasing the contaminated water would be.

In South Korea, the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute is taking the lead in R&D projects related to reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. The problems with reprocessing plants don’t end here. Plutonium can be used as a raw material for making nuclear weapons. I think that South Korea and Japanese citizens need to join forces to shut down both countries’ reprocessing plans.

By Kim So-youn, staff reporter

http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_international/958103.html

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

Japan pushes forward with plans to dump radioactive water into ocean, despite public opposition

Tokyo may dump contaminated water as early as September

8615976536687837Storage tanks for water contaminated with radioactive matter from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

Aug.17,2020

During the past three months, while the international community was focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, the Japanese government has held five public hearings as it moves forward with its decision to dump radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear disaster into the ocean. After analyzing the transcripts and videos from the hearings, the Hankyoreh has concluded that the Japanese government will probably decide to dump the water as early as September or October, despite overwhelming public opposition to the plan, even in Japan. Since a study has found that the contaminated water could reach the eastern coast of South Korea within a year of being dumped, international groups focusing on the environment and experts in international law are calling for the South Korean government to take preemptive action in the area of international law.

Following an explosion during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was closed and is being decommissioned, a process that has taken nine years so far. But debate continues about how to deal with the growing volume of water contaminated with radioactivity, including the water used to cool the nuclear fuel and rainwater and groundwater that have seeped into the buildings. The contaminated water is currently being stored in tanks, but by the summer of 2022, the Japanese government says, the tanks will run out of space, necessitating the water’s release into the ocean.

The Japanese government, under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, held video hearings about how to deal with the contaminated water on Apr. 6, Apr. 13, May 11, June 30, and July 17. These hearings were attended not only by representatives from the fishing, agriculture, and hospitality businesses and community leaders from Fukushima Prefecture but also the national tourist council and groups representing businesses and consumers. The government was represented by officials from 10 or so ministries, including the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, the Ministry of the Environment, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Radioactive matter detected in water even after decontamination

While reviewing the hearings, the Hankyoreh learned that radioactive matter has been detected even following decontamination efforts, that releasing the water would likely cement Fukushima’s stigma as an area tainted with radioactivity and have a serious impact on the fishing industry, and that there was widespread opposition to the idea among hearing attendees, who argued that the final decision shouldn’t be made until public opinion has been canvassed.

An August 2019 report by international environmental group Greenpeace about the contaminated water at Fukushima found that the water, once released, would flow through the East China Sea and be brought via the Kuroshio Current and the Tsushima Current to South Korea’s eastern shore within a year. Disregarding the concerns of the international community, the Japanese government released a draft of a plan this past March to dump the contaminated water at Fukushima into the ocean over the course of 30 years. Given the plan’s schedule, which involves the construction of a facility to dilute the contaminated water, its decision will likely be made by this October. Abe told the press in an interview in March that he wants to finalize a plan as quickly as possible.

The Japanese government intends to make its final decision after canvassing the opinions of Fukushima residents, related organizations, and ordinary citizens. But even in the Japanese public, there’s fierce opposition to dumping the contaminated water. The Hankyoreh’s analysis of the transcripts and videos from the five hearings show that most of the 37 participants were concerned about the plan to release the water.

It’s human nature to avoid radioactive materials. It’s a serious problem that there’s still radioactivity even in the decontaminated water, which contradicts what TEPCO [Tokyo Electric Power Company] initially said,” said Hidenori Koito, the director of a trade association for the hospitality industry in Fukushima Prefecture.

80% of water contains radioactive matter beyond permissible levels

TEPCO claimed to have filtered out 62 kinds of radioactive material through the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) and all that’s left is tritium, which is technically difficult to remove from the contaminated water in the tanks. But a 2018 study found that 80% of the water processed using ALPS still contained more than the permitted level of radioactive matter that is deadly to the human body, including cesium, strontium, and iodine. While TEPCO has emphasized that it would decontaminate the water once more to ensure its safety prior to release, distrust has already surged.

Another criticism is that dumping the water would spoil the nine-year campaign by Fukushima residents to repair the area’s reputation. “If the contaminated water is released into the ocean, people will inevitably think there’s another radiation leak at Fukushima, given the nuclear accident that occurred there,” said Kimio Akimoto, president of a coalition of forestry associations in the prefecture.

Vehement opposition from fishermen

An even sterner stance was taken by fishermen, who depend upon the ocean for their livelihood. “It’s unacceptable for radioactive matter to be deliberately pumped into the ocean,” said Tetsu Nozaki, president of a coalition of fishery cooperatives in Fukushima Prefecture. The national coalition of fishery cooperatives voted on July 23 to “oppose” the planned release of contaminated water.

There are also concerns that the government is rushing the plan. “The Japanese public doesn’t know the details about the contaminated water yet. The final decision shouldn’t be made until people understand what it means to dump contaminated water into the ocean,” said Yuki Urago, secretary-general of a national coalition of consumers’ associations.

Right now, the Japanese public is focused on COVID-19. It’s doubtful whether the issue of contaminated water at Fukushima can provoke a national debate in this situation,” said Yuko Endo, mayor of Kawauchi, a village in Fukushima Prefecture.

Japan took an unusually long opinion canvassing period

Before deciding on important policies, the Japanese government has a practice of canvassing opinions, a process known as the “public comment” period. The relevant ministry here, the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, began collecting comments on Apr. 6 and took the unusual step of extending that period three times, only wrapping it up at the end of last month. One reason the government may have extended the comment period is because of the overwhelming opposition to releasing the contaminated water into the ocean.

Last month, the UN Human Rights Council released a statement expressing “deep concerns” about “a report indicating that the Japanese government is accelerating its timeframe for releasing water contaminated with radioactivity at Fukushima.” South Korea, given its proximity to Japan and the ocean, has set up a government-wide task force under the Office of the Prime Minister to keep tabs on the Japanese government’s actions.

We’re asking Japan to share adequate information while it’s processing the contaminated water at the Fukushima nuclear plant. We’re monitoring the situation from various angles to see what impact this will have on us,” explained an official from South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

By Kim So-youn, staff reporter

http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_international/958099.html

 

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

U.N. experts urge Japan not to rush discharge of radioactive water and not ignore human rights obligations on nuclear waste disposal

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June 9, 2020

U.N. experts urge Japan not to rush discharge of radioactive water

Four United Nations human rights experts on Tuesday urged the Japanese government against rushing to discharge radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea until consultations are made with affected communities and neighboring countries.

“We are deeply concerned by reports that the Government of Japan has accelerated its timeline for the release of radioactive wastewater into the ocean without time or opportunity for meaningful consultations,” the experts said in a press release.

The experts are imploring the government to delay its decision on releasing the radioactive water until after the coronavirus pandemic has been contained, so proper attention can be dedicated to the issue.

The concern was raised as public consultations on the release of the plant’s wastewater have been accelerated, and opinions will be solicited by next Monday. Such consultations were initially scheduled until after the now-postponed Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Japan is considering ways to safely dispose of the water contaminated with radioactive materials, including releasing it into the Pacific Ocean and evaporating it. Tanks used to store the water are expected to be filled by summer 2022.

The experts — U.N. special rapporteurs respectively on hazardous wastes, rights to food, rights to assembly and association, and rights of indigenous people — took note of credible indications that the postponement of the games sped up the government’s decision-making process.

With the pandemic also preventing in-depth consultations with relevant stakeholders, the rapporteurs called on the Japanese government to give “proper space and opportunity for consultations on the disposal of nuclear waste that will likely affect people and peoples both inside and outside of Japan.”

“COVID-19 must be not be used as a sleight of hand to distract from decisions that will have profound implications for people and the planet for generations to come,” they said, raising the alarm that a discharge will pose a grave threat to the livelihoods of local fishermen.

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/06/6f6afd14d6a4-un-experts-urge-japan-not-to-rush-discharge-of-radioactive-water.html

 

Fukushima: Japan must not ignore human rights obligations on nuclear waste disposal – UN experts

GENEVA (9 June 2020) – UN human rights experts* today urged the Japanese Government to delay any decision on the ocean-dumping of nuclear waste water from the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi until after the COVID-19 crisis has passed and proper international consultations can be held.

“We are deeply concerned by reports that the Government of Japan has accelerated its timeline for the release of radioactive waste water into the ocean without time or opportunity for meaningful consultations,” the independent experts said. Credible sources indicate the postponement of the 2020 Olympics enabled the Government’s new decision-making process for release of the waste.

They said the Government’s short extension for the current public consultation was grossly insufficient while COVID-19 measures limited opportunities for input from all affected communities in Japan, as well as those in neighbouring countries, including indigenous peoples.

“COVID-19 must be not be used as a sleight of hand to distract from decisions that will have profound implications for people and the planet for generations to come,” the experts said. “There will be grave impacts on the livelihood of local Japanese fisher folk, but also the human rights of people and peoples outside of Japan.”

They said there was no need for hasty decisions because adequate space was available for additional storage tanks to increase capacity, and the public consultation originally was not expected to be held until after the 2020 Olympics.

“We call on the government of Japan to give proper space and opportunity for consultations on the disposal of nuclear waste that will likely affect people and peoples both inside and outside of Japan. We further call on the Government of Japan to respect the right of indigenous peoples to free prior and informed consent and to respect their right to assemble and associate to form such a consent.”

The experts have communicated their concerns to the Government of Japan. UN experts have previously raised concerns over the increase of exposure levels to radiation deemed “acceptable” for the general public, and for the use of vulnerable workers in efforts to clean up after the nuclear disaster.

ENDS

*The experts: Mr. Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes; Mr. Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; and Mr. José Francisco Calí Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25940&LangID=E

 

June 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima’s radioactive water problem

Water should be stored at nuclear site, not dumped in the Pacific

new-fuku-water-slider

By Linda Pentz Gunter

We are republishing this story this week, as the Japanese government is now threatening the imminent dumping of the radiologically contaminated water, stored at the Fukushima nuclear site, into the Pacific Ocean. The article below provides the background on this issue and the alternative choices. Our Japanese activist friends are urging us all to sign onto their petitions — there is one for groups to sign and one for individuals — asking the Japanese government not to dump 1.2 million cubic meters of radioactive water into the ocean. Japan civil society groups and Fukushima fishing unions are strongly opposed to this needless ocean discharge. Groups please sign here. Individuals please sign here.

Original article, published September 15, 2019, follows:

Last week, Japan’s then environment minister, Yoshiaki Harada, made news with a pronouncement that wasn’t news. The storage tanks at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site, filled with radioactive water, were reaching capacity. By 2022 there would be no room for more tanks on the present site. Japan would then have to dump the radioactive water stored in the tanks into the Pacific Ocean, he said.

Although likely unrelated to those remarks, a day later, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dispatched 19 of his cabinet ministers, including Harada. Harada was replaced as environment minister by rising star, Shinjiro Koizumi, the son of former primer minister, Junichiro Koizumi. Both father and son are opposed to nuclear energy, and on his first day in office, the younger Koizumi told reporters that he believed Japan should end its use of nuclear energy and close its nuclear power plants.

01Shinjiro Koizumi, Japan’s new environment minister, says Japan should cease using nuclear power.

I would like to study how we scrap them, not how to retain them,” Reuters reported him saying. This is a surprising position from someone inside the fervently pro-nuclear Abe government and it remains to be seen whether he will be allowed to translate his position into policy.

Dumping Fukushima Daiichi’s accumulated radioactive water has long been the plan proposed by Tepco, the site owner. Fukushima fishermen, along with some scientists and a number of NGOs from around the world, continue to object.

We addressed this issue briefly on a recent TRT broadcast (see video below).

Cooling water is needed at the Fukushima site because, when Units 1, 2 and 3 lost power, they also lost the flow of reactor coolant, causing their cores to overheat. The fuel rods then melted, and molten fuel dripped down and burned through the pressure vessels, pooling in the primary containment vessels. Units 1, 3 and 4 also suffered hydrogen explosions. Each day, about 200 metric tons of cooling water is used to keep the three melted cores cool, lest they once more go critical. Eventually the water becomes too radioactive and thermally hot to be re-used, and must be discarded and stored in the tanks.

As Greenpeace International (GPI) explained in remarks and questions submitted during a consultative meeting held by the International Maritime Organization in August 2019:

“Since 2011, in order to cool the molten cores in the Tokyo Electric Power Company Fukushima Daiichi reactor units 1-3, water is continuously pumped through the damaged Reactor Pressure Vessels (RPVs) and circulated through reactor buildings, turbine buildings, the Process Main Building and the “High Temperature Incinerator Building”  and water treatment systems.

“As a result, the past eight years has seen a relentless increase in the volume of radioactive contaminated water accumulating on site. As of 4 July 2019, the total amount of contaminated water held in 939 storage tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi plant (units 1-4) was 1,145,694 m3 (tonnes). The majority of this, 1,041,710 m3, is contaminated processed water. In the year to April 2019, approximately 180 m3/day of water was being circulated into the RPVs of units 1-3.”

In addition to the cooling water, the tanks also house water that has run down from the nearby mountains, at a rate of about 100 tons each day. This water flows onto the site and seeps into the reactor buildings. There, it becomes radioactively contaminated and also must be collected and stored, to prevent it from flowing on down into the sea.

The water tank crisis is just one of multiple and complex problems at the Fukushima Daiichi site, including the eventual need to extract the molten fuel debris from inside the stricken reactors. Decommissioning cannot begin until the water storage tanks are removed.

Tepco has tried to mitigate the radioactive water problem in a number of ways. The infamous $320 million ice wall was an attempt to freeze and block inflow, but has had mixed results and has worked only intermittently. Wells were dug to try to divert the runoff water so it does not pick up contamination. The ice wall has reportedly reduced the flow of groundwater somewhat, but only down from 500 tons a day to about 100 tons.

In anticipation of dumping the tank water into the Pacific Ocean, Tepco has deployed an Advanced Liquid Processing System that the company claims can remove 62 isotopes from the water — all except tritium, which is radioactive hydrogen and therefore cannot be filtered out of water. (Tritium is routinely discharged by operating commercial nuclear power plants).

jkhijkTepco’s “Land-side Impermeable Wall” (Frozen soil wall).

 

But, like the ice wall, the filtration system has also been plagued by malfunctions. According to GPI, Tepco admitted only last year that the system had “failed to reduce radioactivity to levels below the regulatory limit permissible for ocean disposal” in at least 80% of the tanks’ inventory. Indeed, said GPI, “the levels of Strontium-90 are more than 100 times the regulatory standard according to TEPCO, with levels at 20,000 times above regulations in some tanks.”

The plan to dump the water has raised the ire of South Korea, whose fish stocks would likely also be contaminated. And it has introduced the question of whether such a move is a violation of The Conventions of the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as was raised in a joint written statement by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and Greenpeace International, before the UN Human Rights Council currently in session.

So what else could or should Tepco do, if not dump the water offshore and into the ocean? A wide consensus amongst scientific, environmental and human rights groups is that on-site storage for the indefinite future is the only acceptable option, while research must continue into possible ways to extract all of the radioactive content, including tritium.

Meanwhile, a panel of experts says it will examine a number of additional but equally problematic choices, broadly condensed into four options (each with some variations — to  dilute or not to dilute etc):

  • Ground (geosphere) injection (which could bring the isotopes in contact with groundwater);
  • Vapor release (which could infiltrate weather patterns and return as fallout);
  • Releasing it as hydrogen (it would still contain tritium gas); and
  • Solidification followed by underground burial (for which no safe, permanent storage environment has yet been found, least of all in earthquake-prone Japan).

Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds, recommends a chemical injection processes (drilling mud) — also used by the oil industry — to stop the flow of water onto the site entirely. But he says Japan has never considered this option. GPI contends that Japan has never seriously researched any of the alternatives, sticking to the ocean dumping plan, the cheapest and fastest “fix.”

All of this mess is of course an inevitable outcome of the choice to use nuclear power in the first place. Even without an accident, no safe, permanent storage solution has been found for the high-level radioactive waste produced through daily operation of commercial nuclear power plants, never mind as the result of an accident.

According to Dr. M.V. Ramana, by far the best solution is to continue to store the radioactive water, even if that means moving some of the storage tanks to other locations to make more room for new ones at the nuclear site. The decision to dump the water, Ramana says, is in line with Abe’s attempts to whitewash the scene before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and claim, as he has publicly in the past, that everything at Fukushima is “under control.” (Baseball and softball games will be played in Fukushima Prefecture and the torch relay will start there, all in an effort to pretend there are no dangerous nuclear after-effects remaining in the area.)

“The reason that they keep saying they need to release it is because they might have to move some of this offsite and that goes against the Abe government’s interest in creating the perception that Fukushima is a closed chapter,” Ramana wrote in an email. “So it is a political decision rather than a technical one.”

As with all things nuclear, there are diverging views on the likely impact to the marine environment and to human health, from dumping Fukushima’s radioactive water into the ocean. These run the gamut from “a little tritium won’t hurt you” to “the Pacific Ocean is dead thanks to Fukushima” — both of which are wildly untrue. (Tritium can bind organically inside the body, irradiating that person or animal from within. The many problems in the Pacific began long before Fukushima and are likely caused by numerous compounding factors, including warming and pollution, with Fukushima adding to the existing woes.)

kjjmkThe effect on deep sea creatures of radioactive ocean dumping could be long-lasting.

 

What is fact, however, is that scientists have found not only the presence of isotopes such as cesium in fish they tested, but also in ocean floor sediment. This latter has the potential to serve as a more long-term source of contamination up the food chain.

But it is also important to remember that if this radioactive water is dumped, it is not an isolated event. Radioactive contamination in our oceans is already widespread, a result of years of atmospheric atomic tests. As was reported earlier this year, scientists studying deep-sea amphipods, retrieved from some of the deepest trenches in the ocean — including the Mariana Trench which reaches 36,000 feet below sea-level and is deeper than Mount Everest is high — detected elevated levels of carbon-14 in these creatures.

“The levels closely matched abundances found near the surface of the ocean, where the amount of carbon-14 is higher than usual thanks to nuclear bomb tests conducted more than half a century ago,” reported Smithsonian Magazine.

Weidong Sun, co-author of the resulting study, told Smithsonian Magazine that “Biologically, [ocean] trenches are taken to be the most pristine habitats on Earth”.

How chilling, then, to realize that our radioactive irresponsibility has reached the lowest depths, affecting creatures far removed from our rash behaviors.

Consequently, the decision by the Japanese government to release yet more radioactive contamination into our oceans must be viewed not as a one-off act of desperation, but as a contribution to cumulative contamination. This, added to the twin tragedies of climate crisis-induced ocean warming and plastics and chemicals pollution, renders it one more crime committed on the oceans, ourselves and all living things. And it reinforces the imperative to neither continue nor increase our reckless use of nuclear power as an electricity source.

Fukushima’s radioactive water problem

June 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Why the Japanese government’s plan to dump radioactive water into the ocean needs to be stopped.

Linda Pentz Gunter
 
This week on The Update: Why the Japanese government’s plan to dump radioactive water into the ocean needs to be stopped.
The Japanese government is one again threatening to start dumping the radioactive water currently stored in tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site, into the ocean.
Please sign the petition urging them not to do this.

June 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Taiwan green groups urge Japan not to discharge radioactive water

kjmlmlA coalition of environmental protection groups chants slogan in front of the Taipei office of Japan’s de facto embassy in Taiwan, the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, on May 13, 2020

 

May 14, 2020

TAIPEI (Kyodo) — A coalition of environmental protection groups in Taiwan on Wednesday urged the Japanese government to refrain from releasing radioactive water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean.

Chanting the slogan “No to dumping radioactive water into the ocean,” representatives of the organization presented a petition to the Taipei office of Japan’s de facto embassy in Taiwan, the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, in the morning.

National Nuclear Abolition Action Platform spokeswoman Tsuei Su-hsin emphasized that they did not come to protest, but rather to urge the Japanese government to refrain from making decisions to cut costs at the expense of the environment.

“There are safer and more sustainable alternatives,” Tsuei said.

The Japanese government and the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant at the time are currently 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.

A decision needs to be made soon as space for storing the water, which has been treated but is still contaminated with low-toxicity radioactive tritium, is fast running out.

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

A panel of experts advising the government on a disposal method has recommended releasing it into the ocean. The government is soliciting opinions from the public before it makes a decision in the summer. Based on past practice, it is likely to accept the recommendation.

Tsai Ya-ying, an activist and lawyer of the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, said as Japan is a signatory of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, it is obligated to take all measures within the Convention that are necessary to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment from any source.

Discharging the water into the ocean could amount to a violation of the Convention, she said.

Liu Jyh-jian, president of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, urged the Japanese government to make a decision that is friendly to both the environment and to mankind.

He added that if the tritium enters the food chain, it is bound to cause harm to humans in the long run.

Tsai Chung-yueh, deputy secretary general of Citizen of the Earth, voiced concern that the Japanese government may be too preoccupied with fighting COVID-19 to make a decision that is environmentally sustainable.

The contaminated water is increasing by about 170 tons per day. Space is expected to run out by summer 2022.

Local Japanese fishermen and residents have expressed concerns about releasing the water on food and the environment.

Widespread concerns remain as well, with many countries and regions still restricting imports of Japanese agricultural and fishery products in the wake of the 2011 disaster that was triggered by a major earthquake and tsunami.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200513/p2g/00m/0in/112000c

June 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Taiwan groups reject Japan plan to dump radioactive wastewater

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May 13, 2020

Taipei, May 13 (CNA) About 20 environmental protection groups on Wednesday delivered a petition to the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, expressing opposition to the discharge of radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean.

Roughly 1.2 million metric tons of contaminated water remains from the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that hit the plant on March 11, 2011, destroying key cooling functions and causing a huge leakage of radiation.

The wastewater contains approximately 880 trillion becquerels of tritium, a hydrogen isotope that experts say poses a relatively low risk to human health.

The Japanese government is currently soliciting public opinion on wastewater treatment until June 15, after which it will decide what to do with the contaminated water. One of the options is dumping it into the ocean.

“We learned Japan is considering discharging wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi plant into the ocean. The plan will cause radioactive contamination to marine ecology. We were astonished to learn this and resolutely oppose it,” the Taiwanese groups said in their petition.

The groups said they were not there to protest but to appeal to the Japanese government to listen to neighboring countries and not to make the wrong decision.

Currently, 2,000 groups and individuals around the world have signed a petition opposing discharging the wastewater into the sea, while about 20 groups in Taiwan submitted a petition to the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, said Tsui Shu-hsin (崔愫欣), General Secretary of anti-nuclear organization Green Citizens’ Action Alliance.

If Japan goes ahead with such a plan, the Taiwanese groups do not rule out holding protests, Tsui said.

Releasing the wastewater into the sea is not the only option, Tsui said, adding that it could also be put into larger storage tanks by consolidating the sludge or soil particles, though that would be more expensive.

Although discharging the wastewater into the ocean is the cheapest approach, “We resolutely oppose using this treatment method,” Tsui said.

Despite the fact that plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., (TEPCO) has installed filtration systems to remove radioactive isotopes strontium-90 and caesium-137, it cannot remove tritium residue in the wastewater, while 70 percent of the water still contains the radioactive elements strontium-90 and caesium-137.

As such, dumping the wastewater into the ocean, could cause enormous damage to the marine environment, said Tsai Ya-ying (蔡雅瀅), a lawyer affiliated with the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association.

Japan, a signatory country of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, should adopt all necessary measures to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment in accordance with Article 194 of the convention. It also needs to ensure other countries do not suffer from the effects of environmental damage caused by contamination, Tsai noted.

She called on Japan to reject the possibility of dumping radioactive wastewater into the sea to avoid adversely impacting neighboring countries and hurting good relations between Taiwan and Japan.

https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202005130011

May 14, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Korean navy to study impact of Fukushima Daiichi’s radioactive water leak

optimizeA Tokyo Electric Power official wearing protective gear stands in front of Advanced Liquid Processing Systems during a press tour at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant in this Nov. 12, 2014, photo.

 

Navy to study impact on radioactive water leak by Japan

May 12, 2020

By Kang Seung-woo

The Navy announced, Tuesday, plans to study the effects of radioactive water on its operations in an apparent countermeasure against Japan’s alleged plan to dump the contaminated water from its Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean.

While many domestic and international environment groups have studied the possible water release by Japan, this is the first time that the Korean military has decided to investigate the issue, although it remains cautious about specifying Japan is the target country for the study.

According to a notice posted on the government’s procurement system site, the Navy plans to commission research into the potential impact of radioactive water within its operational areas on its maritime operations and ways to stably carry out missions.

The Navy said the 30 million-won ($24,000) research project is scheduled to run until Nov. 30.

“We recognize the growing possibility of radiation-contaminated water being released into our operational areas, and international environmental organizations have warned that if a neighboring country dumps radioactive water into the ocean, it would reach the East Sea within a year,” a Navy officer said.

The officer added that there have been no studies on how radioactive water would affect the environment where naval operations are carried out, and so an advanced investigation is required in order for the Navy to conduct practical and realistic operations.

“Given that seawater is used for living purposes and cooling for equipment, we need to research the impact of radioactive water,” the officer said.

The envisaged research comes as Japan has reportedly been preparing to discharge contaminated water from the power plant, devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011, into the ocean. More than 1.1 million tons of radioactive water are reportedly being stored in 977 temporary holding 977 tanks at the power plant in Fukushima.

In February, Greenpeace said a group of experts in Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry had recommended discharging the contaminated water into the ocean as a final means to get rid of it.

In relation to the plan, the Japanese government has held events to gather opinions from local residents and experts on dumping radioactive water into the Pacific, which were seen as procedural ahead of releasing the contaminated water.

However, the Navy said its study was not targeting Japan, adding that it was meant to devise detailed guidelines and a response manual to radioactive-contaminated water in general.

The possibility of Tokyo discharging the water into the sea was raised last year after Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at the German branch of Greenpeace, warned in August that Japan could dump over 1 million tons of radioactive waste into the Pacific.

Since then, Japanese government officials have begun to openly discuss the issue. They say almost all the radioactivity has been removed from the water except for tritium, claiming this metal was relatively nonhazardous ― something experts disagree with, noting it can cause cancer and fetal deformities.

Yoshiaki Harada, a former Japanese environment minister, said last year that there was no other option but to dilute the contaminated water by pumping it into the ocean in order to dispose of it.

In response, the Korean foreign ministry summoned Tomofumi Nishinaga, a minister for economic affairs at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, to convey the government’s concern on the possible disposal of contaminated water. It also sent letters to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to express concern over the environmental impact of the possible water release and call for joint countermeasures from the international community.

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2020/05/181_289418.html

hjlkmThe Navy plans to look into possible impact of radioactive contaminated water on its operations, officials said Tuesday, amid concerns over Japan’s planned release of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.

 

Navy to assess impact of radioactive water on its operations amid Fukushima concerns

May 12, 2020

The Navy plans to look into possible impact of radioactive contaminated water on its operations, officials said Tuesday, amid concerns over Japan’s planned release of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.

Japan has been preparing to release contaminated water from the power plant devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011 into the ocean. More than 1.1 million tons of tainted water is reportedly in temporary storage at the Fukushima plant.

According to the notice of a bid posted on the government’s procurement system site, the Navy plans to commission research into potential impacts of radioactive water within operational areas on its maritime operations and ways to stably carry out missions.

“We’ve seen a growing possibility of contaminated water being released into our operational areas and we need to assess its impact on the health of our sailors and military hardware, among others,” a Navy official said.

It is the first time that the Navy has taken steps to look into the Fukushima case, though it did not specifically mention the Japan case in its plan to commission the research.

“The planned study is meant to devise detailed guidelines and response manuals in general terms,” the officer said. (Yonhap)


Japan has been preparing to release contaminated water from the power plant devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011 into the ocean. More than 1.1 million tons of tainted water is reportedly in temporary storage at the Fukushima plant.

According to the notice of a bid posted on the government’s procurement system site, the Navy plans to commission research into potential impacts of radioactive water within operational areas on its maritime operations and ways to stably carry out missions.

“We’ve seen a growing possibility of contaminated water being released into our operational areas and we need to assess its impact on the health of our sailors and military hardware, among others,” a Navy official said.

It is the first time that the Navy has taken steps to look into the Fukushima case, though it did not specifically mention the Japan case in its plan to commission the research.

“The planned study is meant to devise detailed guidelines and response manuals in general terms,” the officer said. (Yonhap)

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2020/05/371_289385.html

May 14, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Improved input needed from locals over nuke water disposal

jhjkStorage tanks filled with radioactive water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, in 2019

 

April 9, 2020

The government recently heard the opinions of local communities in Fukushima on tackling the urgent challenge of disposing of radiation-contaminated water being generated by the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The water still contains tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, even after being treated with a filtering system.

Local residents who attended the meeting, held in the city of Fukushima, the capital of Fukushima Prefecture, were divided over the government’s proposal to dilute the tritium-laced water to safe levels and release it into the ocean or vaporize the water and release the steam into the atmosphere.

But they clearly shared deep concerns about damaging rumors such a step could generate.

Many participants also said the government has not provided the public with sufficient information about tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen with a half-life of slightly more than 12 years.

The government should seek a longer and more informed conversation on this issue with local communities without rushing to a conclusion.

The No. 1 to No. 3 reactors at the plant are still generating tons of polluted water each day as these reactors are being flooded to cool melted nuclear fuel and underground water keeps pouring in.

Since the filtering system is unable to eliminate tritium from the water, the treated water is stored in an increasing number of on-site tanks. The number of tanks has already topped 1,000 and Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the ruined plant, says there will be no space for new tanks around the summer of 2022.

In February, the ministry of trade and industry’s expert panel proposed two options–gradually releasing polluted water into the sea and allowing the polluted water to evaporate into the air–as realistic approaches. The subcommittee suggested that releases in the ocean would be the less troublesome of the two options for several technical reasons.

The meeting, held to discuss the panel’s recommendations, were attended by 10 people representing the prefectural and municipal governments and local industries.

If the water is released into the sea, it will be treated again with the filtering system and then diluted with seawater. But the Fukushima prefectural federation of fisheries cooperatives voiced opposition to this approach out of concerns about “the future of young people working in the industry.”

Given that the local fisheries catches have plunged and still remain at about 14 percent of the levels before the nuclear disaster, it is hardly surprising that the fishing industry refuses to accept this method.

But the local association of inns, hotels, restaurants and other businesses related to environmental health expressed its support for the proposal to release the water into the sea.

But the association demanded compensation for the losses the tourist industry could suffer until the end of the process, arguing that the damage will be due to a deliberate action instead of harmful rumors. 

While the local communities and industries are apparently divided and uncertain with regard to the proposed release of the polluted water into the environment and its repercussions, it should be noted that many of the event participants expressed concerns about harmful rumors.

The debate will not be really constructive unless the government and the utility show the entire picture of the plan to deal with the situation. This must include clear answers to such questions as what specific measures will be taken to prevent a fresh wave of harmful rumors that could be triggered by the release and how to compensate for any damage that might result.

During the meeting, local representatives spoke most of the time, with few exchanges with government officials taking place.

Representatives of citizens or consumers were not invited to attend the meeting.

Another similar meeting is scheduled in Fukushima Prefecture next week. But these events should not be regarded simply as part of the formalities for proceeding with the plan to release the water rather than as means for meaningful dialogue with local communities.

Some participants called for expanding the scope of the debate on the issue to involve other parts of the nation. One participant said the opinions of the fisheries industries of other prefectures should also be heard since there are no prefectural borders in the sea.

Another said if the step is really safe, its implementation in other prefectures should also be considered.

It should be kept in mind that disposal of the treated water is not a challenge facing only Fukushima.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13283645

April 24, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Dump N-Plant Water outside Fukushima: Local Mayor

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April 9, 2020

Fukushima, April 9 (Jiji Press)–The mayor of the northeastern Japan city of Fukushima on Thursday called for treated radioactive water at the disaster-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to be dumped outside Fukushima Prefecture.

“I want the water to be released into the ocean at a location that does not include ‘Fukushima’ in its name,” Hiroshi Kohata said at a press conference in the capital city of the prefecture. “If it’s released near the prefecture, it will certainly cause it to suffer harmful rumors,” he said.

The treated water at the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. <9501> plant, which suffered a triple meltdown following the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and monster tsunami in March 2011, still contains radioactive tritium.

“The water should be carried in a giant tanker and dumped in a place where it will cause as small an effect as possible,” the mayor said.

If this cannot be done, the water should be dumped near the Tokyo metropolitan area, Kohata suggested. “It makes sense to dispose of it at a place that has benefited from the power generation at the Fukushima No. 1 plant,” he said. Before the nuclear accident, the electricity produced at the plant in Fukushima Prefecture was sent to and consumed in the metropolitan area.

https://www.nippon.com/en/news/yjj2020040900690/dump-n-plant-water-outside-fukushima-local-mayor.html

 

April 24, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO simulates release of Fukushima wastewater

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April 6, 2020

Tokyo Electric Power Company has made public a simulation showing the flow of radioactive wastewater released into the ocean from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. TEPCO says winds and tides will spread the wastewater in an elongated shape along the coastline.

The Japanese government has been looking into ways to dispose of the roughly 1.2 million tons of wastewater accumulated at the plant, which contains approximately 860 trillion becquerels of tritium.

TEPCO’s simulation estimated the area of ocean that would contain more than 1 becquerel of radioactive materials per liter.

The simulation shows that when water containing 100 trillion becquerels of radioactive materials is released each year, the area would be 2 kilometers offshore from the plant and stretch 30 kilometers from north to south.

When wastewater with 22 trillion becquerels of radioactive materials is released per year, it would spread 700 meters from shore and stretch 3 kilometers from north to south.

A government panel said in a report released in February that releasing diluted radioactive water into the sea or air are realistic options. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency expressed some understanding for the plan. But the proposal drew opposition from local fishermen and others.

TEPCO has yet to show its simulation of wastewater released into the air.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20200406_03/

April 24, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

South Korea Expresses Concern About New Fukushima Water Release Plan

Contaminated-water-storage-tanks-at-Fukushima-Daiichi-(Tepco)

30 Mar 2020 – 08:15 by OOSKAnews Correspondent

SEOUL, South Korea

South Korea has expressed concern about a new draft plan from Japan to release contaminated Fukushima water from its disabled Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea.

The country’s Office for Government Policy Coordination said March 26 that Japan should ensure that its plan does not affect the health and safety of South Koreans or the maritime ecosystem, while the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said that it “cannot support the Japanese government discharging contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in the sea without discussions with neighbouring countries”.

South Korea’s latest protest came two days after the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) issued a more detailed draft plan to release the contaminated water over 30 years.

Currently, treated, but still radioactive water, is accumulating at about 170 tons per day and is being treated to remove most contaminants, following the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

TEPCO reports that currently there is 1.19 million cubic meters of contaminated water in storage on site. The concentration of tritium, which cannot be completely removed, is about 730,000 Bq/litre, or a total of 16 grams. Quantities of treated water are increasing constantly and storage capacity is expected to run out in 2021.

The utility’s report discusses the treatment and disposal methods, which have been developed by outside experts, as being “practical options, both of which have precedents in current practice…the radiation impact of both the discharge into the sea and vapor release is notably small, compared to natural radiation exposure,” saying that the government of Japan, not TEPCO, will make the final decision as to release.

The tritium concentration will be lowered as much as possible under the plan: “For vapor release: TEPCO will study dilution of tritium at a rate equivalent to that for discharge into the sea, as against the regulatory concentration limit of tritium in the atmosphere (5 Bq in 1 liter air)…For discharge into the sea: TEPCO will study dilution rates of tritium with reference to operational standards for “groundwater bypass” and “subdrains” (1,500 Bq in 1 liter water), which are well below the regulatory concentration limit for tritium in seawater (60,000 Bq in 1 liter water).” This is against WHO drinking water guideline (10,000 Bq in 1 liter water)”

If any abnormality is detected, the disposal process will stopped under the draft plan. Monitoring will be enhanced by [an] increase in sampling points and frequency; information will be published promptly.

The report is described as being aimed at the general public and other stakeholders who plan to participate in government-organised “opinion hearings”.

https://www.ooskanews.com/story/2020/03/south-korea-expresses-concern-about-new-fukushima-water-release-plan_179431

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

Tepco to pursue its radioactive water sea release plan

Tepco to pursue its radioactive water sea release plan and “Tepco also plans to use social media to counter rumors that exposure to radiation from the released water is harmful.”

 

20200324_42_822140_L

 

Plan to dispose of Fukushima wastewater drafted

March 24, 2020

NHK has learned that Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, has drafted a plan for disposing of radioactive wastewater stored at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Water used to cool molten nuclear fuel from the 2011 accident is treated to remove most radioactive material. But tritium and other substances remain in the water, a huge amount of which is stored in about 1,000 large tanks.

A government panel last month compiled a report that says releasing diluted radioactive wastewater into the sea or air are realistic options.

TEPCO’s plan for doing so would involve diluting the wastewater with seawater, aiming for a tritium level of one-fortieth that allowed by national regulation.

The firm would gradually release the diluted water over about 30 years, taking into consideration the amount of similar water released at other nuclear plants.

TEPCO would also test treating the wastewater again to further remove other radioactive materials.

The utility is to explain the plan to local officials and residents in Fukushima Prefecture. People in the local fishery and tourism industries oppose releasing the water into the ocean.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20200324_42/

 

 

n-tepco-a-20200326-870x497Tanks storing contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in February

 

Tepco may take 30 years to release Fukushima No. 1 radioactive water

March 25, 2020

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. said Tuesday it may spend up to 20 to 30 years releasing contaminated water into the surrounding environment from its disaster-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The possible time span was mentioned in draft plans Tepco drew up in line with a government panel’s report in February, calling the release of the water into the ocean or the air in the form of vapor a “realistic option.”

The company currently stores roughly 119 tons of water that still contains tritium and other radioactive substances after passing through a treatment process at the nuclear plant, which suffered a triple meltdown in March 2011 caused by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami. The amount of contaminated water stored at the facility is still increasing.

According to the draft plans, Tepco will first conduct secondary treatment work to reduce the amount of radioactive substances in the water other than tritium — which cannot be removed by existing systems — to levels below national standards.

Following the treatment, the water will be released into the ocean, after being diluted with seawater to lower the radiation level to 1,500 becquerels per liter, or emitted into the air from a tall exhaust stack after being vaporized.

Tepco also plans to use social media to counter rumors that exposure to radiation from the released water is harmful.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/03/25/national/tepco-fukushima-nuclear-plant-water/#.Xn3XRHJCeUk

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

‘Fukushima’s radioactive water discharge is important to Koreans’

optimizeGreenpeace nuclear campaigner Shaun Burnie in front of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, five years after the accident. The environmental organization has launched an underwater investigation into the marine impacts of radioactive contamination on the Pacific Ocean resulting from the 2011 nuclear disaster,

By Bahk Eun-ji

March 13, 2020

Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany, has been working in Fukushima since 1997 to stop the operation of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, with much of his time based in Japan.

Among a number of nuclear experts around the world who have been condemning the Japanese government’s plan to discharge radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima power plant into the Pacific Ocean, Burnie claims this issue is clearly important to Koreans as they understand the risks of nuclear energy and care about the environment.

“Fukushima is a defining issue of this time as it continues to pose a threat to the environment not just of Japan but the Asia Pacific region. This is a nuclear disaster with no end and Koreans realize that only by speaking up and opposing bad decisions can the progress be made in protecting our environment,” he said.

The nuclear expert said the opposition in Korea to the Japanese government’s plan to discharge contaminated water from Fukushima is entirely justified and essential, so the opposition should continue here in Korea. At the same time, Koreans also should be supporting the local Japanese communities who are opposed to the discharges.

Burnie also said the discharges of the contaminated water are a direct threat to the marine ecosystem and human health as all radioactivity has the potential to cause harm as technically there is no safe level of exposure. The discharges are more than tritium, which can cause damage to human and non-human DNA, but also many other radionuclides such as strontium that, even if processing of the contaminated water is successful, will still be discharged in enormous quantities.

“None of this can be justified from an environmental perspective when there is a clear alternative ― long term storage and processing to remove radionuclides, including tritium.”

The Japanese government has sought for many years to deny that there are radiation risks in Fukushima, which is a central part of their strategy to support nuclear power. By creating the illusion that Fukushima has recovered from the 2011 disaster, the Japanese government think they can convince people to support the restarting of nuclear reactors although the majority of Japanese people are against it.

“It is one reason why the human rights of tens of thousands of Fukushima citizens, including women and children, as well as tens of thousands of workers are violated consistently by the Japanese government,” he said.
https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2020/03/371_286064.html

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

 

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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. 

 

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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.

 

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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.”

https://www.dw.com/en/fukushima-how-the-ocean-became-a-dumping-ground-for-radioactive-waste/a-52710277

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