Millions of tons of nuclear sewage to be discharged into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima, Japan? International organizations warn: or damage human DNA

The treatment of the nuclear sewage from the leakage at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan has been a major challenge. Due to Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the nuclear sewage storage tank will soon be full, the Japanese Government is considering the discharge of large amounts of stored nuclear sewage into the sea, is expected to take two years to discharge preparatory work, the existing about 1.2 million tons of polluted water all treatment and discharge will take about 30 years.

According to Japanese media reports on the 24th, the Japanese government may be in October, after the matter of “nuclear sewage into the sea” to make a formal decision, has not yet revealed the specific decision time. Earlier, the Japanese media reported that the Japanese government will make this decision on the 27th of this month.

Japan’s Fukushima million tons of nuclear sewage will be discharged into the Pacific Ocean? International organizations warn: or damage human DNA
Japanese Prime Minister Kan Yoshihide said during his visit to Indonesia on March 21 that he would decide on the treatment plan for the contaminated water as soon as possible. Japan’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Toyoshige Koda said on the 21st that the contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear accident will be diluted and discharged into the sea in accordance with the relevant standards and will not affect the marine environment and marine life. However, some Japanese media have pointed out that the radioactive tritium in the aforementioned contaminated water, which was treated by TEPCO, is difficult to remove, and in addition, other radioactive substances may remain in the effluent.

Where does the nuclear effluent come from?

The tsunami triggered by the 311 earthquake in Japan in 2011 destroyed the diesel power generation system driving the cooling system of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, causing the three reactors to overheat and the cores to melt down. In response to the accident, TEPCO injected seawater and fresh water into the damaged cores for cooling purposes, which were contaminated with radioactive nuclear elements, mainly tritium, cesium 134, cesium 137, iodine 129, strontium 90, cobalt 60 and others. To date, about 1.2 million tons of nuclear effluent have been used to cool the cores.

Millions of tons of nuclear effluent from Japan’s Fukushima to be discharged into the Pacific Ocean? International organizations warn: or damage human DNA
TEPCO has stored more than 1.2 million tons of water in storage tanks after treating it with an ALPS (Artificial Multi-nutrient Removal System). Due to land constraints, the maximum amount of water TEPCO can now store in new storage tanks is 1.37 million tons. The Yomiuri Shimbun 17 said that 140 tons of contaminated water is now being added daily, and TEPCO estimates that it will reach the storage tank limit of 1.37 million tons by September 2022.

Is the ocean the best dumpster?

Japan had previously envisioned nuclear effluent treatment options that included discharging it into the sea, evaporating it into the atmosphere, burying it underground and building new water storage tanks at nuclear power plants, according to UN News, with a Japanese government committee releasing a report in February saying, “Discharging it into the ocean or the atmosphere is the most realistic option.”

Scientists advising the Japanese government considered a range of treatment options, including evaporating it into the atmosphere or burying it underground, the Financial Times said on 16 February. But diluting the wastewater and then discharging it into the ocean was considered the safest and most economical method.

Is there really no alternative to discharging it into the ocean? According to some analysts, from the perspective of TEPCO, it is true that there is no space available, but from the perspective of the Japanese government, there is a vast amount of available space around the Fukushima nuclear power plant, where some areas still have high levels of nuclear radiation and have been designated by the Japanese government as “temporarily uninhabitable areas”. If a new storage site were to be expanded here, not only would the conditions be right, but the risks involved in disposal would be manageable. For example, the disintegration of a nuclear power plant takes about 30-40 years, and the amount of nuclear wastewater that will be discharged over the next 10 years is already known, and the treatment methods will be continuously improved. In other words, the construction of up to 4,500-6,000 additional storage tanks will be sufficient to contain all the nuclear waste, and why let the land lie fallow when it cannot be used for human habitation?

Opposition in Japan and abroad

“The proposal to discharge contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear accident into the sea has been strongly opposed by the National Fisheries Association of Japan and local fishermen in Fukushima. According to a poll conducted by the Yomiuri Shimbun, 50 per cent of Japanese citizens are opposed to the discharge of nuclear wastewater into the sea. In a survey done in March this year, 68% of people think the decision should be postponed, but after the Japanese government decided to discharge nuclear wastewater into the sea, the opposition increased significantly.

According to the Mainichi Shimbun and other media, the Fukushima Joint Center for Reconstruction, which consists of the Communist Party of Japan and a number of social groups, made a submission to the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry on the 20th, strongly opposing the discharge of nuclear wastewater into the Pacific Ocean and arguing that the wastewater should continue to be kept on land. The Citizens’ Committee for Nuclear Energy, a citizens’ group consisting of university professors and others, issued a public statement on the 20th expressly opposing the discharge of nuclear effluent into the ocean, saying that the government should do its utmost to cool the nuclear fuel rods and prevent the generation of effluent. Chairman Kishihiro of the Japan Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations met with five relevant cabinet members in Tokyo on the 15th and 16th, and submitted a petition stating that fishermen are unanimously opposed to the discharge of nuclear sewage into the sea, and that “the efforts of fishermen for nearly ten years will be wasted (if discharged into the sea).

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said recently that Japan should consult with neighboring countries before deciding. South Korea also reacted immediately, announcing the launch of an interdepartmental response mechanism. In fact, back in June, the UN special rapporteurs concerned with issues such as the disposal of hazardous substances spoke out, urging the Japanese government not to ignore its obligations on nuclear waste disposal and not to take advantage of the epidemic to push nuclear wastewater into the sea without international consultation. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has also said that Japan needs to actively communicate with neighboring countries and the international community to make relevant information about nuclear effluent discharges into the Pacific Ocean available to all stakeholders.

Nuclear effluent into the sea contaminates or damages human DNA

According to an article in the August issue of the American journal Science, the Fukushima nuclear power plant’s nuclear effluent treatment tanks also contain a variety of radioactive components, and more attention needs to be paid to the potential dangers that could result from releasing this effluent into the ocean. Among these radioactive effluents is an isotope of great concern – tritium. Tritium is at the highest level in these radioactive effluents and it is not readily absorbed by marine animals and seafloor sediments. In addition to tritium, which is difficult to remove, in 2018 scientists found a number of radioactive isotopes in treated sewage, including carbon 14, cobalt 60, and strontium 90. unlike tritium, they take longer to degrade and they readily enter marine sediments and are readily absorbed by marine life. These isotopes are potentially toxic to humans and can also affect the marine environment in a more permanent and complex manner. For example, the physiological concentration of carbon 14 in fish may be 50,000 times greater than that of tritium. Cobalt 60, on the other hand, can be enriched in seafloor sediments and may increase in concentration by 300,000 times. In addition to the potentially serious pollution of the marine environment by radioactive materials, radioactive materials may also spread throughout the Pacific Ocean waters and even the global marine environment as a result of ocean currents.

Millions of tons of nuclear effluent to be discharged into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima, Japan? International organizations warn: or damage human DNA
According to CNN 24, Greenpeace International reported that the nuclear effluent contained the radioactive isotopes tritium and carbon-14, with carbon-14 as “the major contributor to humanity’s collective radiation dose, which has the potential to damage human DNA.” These and other radionuclides in the effluent will be dangerous for thousands of years and have the potential to cause genetic damage,” said Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear expert at Greenpeace, adding that there could be as much as 63.6 GBq (gigabecquerels) of carbon-14 in total in the storage tanks. This is why this plan (to discharge into the sea) must be abandoned.”