Japan Decided to Release Nuclear Wastewater into the Pacific Ocean

On April 13, 2021, Japan held a relevant cabinet meeting and officially announced that nuclear wastewater after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident would be discharged into the Pacific Ocean after treatment and dilution. It is expected that more than 1 million tons of nuclear sewage will be gradually discharged into the ocean in 2023 for a period of 30 years.

After the Fukushima nuclear power plant leak, the nuclear reactors were damaged and melted. In order to cool them down, Japan adopted a water cooling method, which produced a lot of nuclear wastewater. Ten years have passed since the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. Today, the status quo of nuclear pollution in Fukushima is still not optimistic. Regarding how to dispose of these nuclear wastewaters, the Japanese government has previously proposed five schemes, among which the cost of discharging into the sea is the lowest.

According to data from TEPCO, as of March this year, the radioactive nuclear wastewater used to cool nuclear reactors has reached 1.25 million tons. At present, all nuclear wastewater is stored in storage tanks of nuclear power plants. It is estimated that by the autumn of 2022, about 1,000 storage tanks with a total capacity of 1.37 million tons prepared by TEPCO will be fully filled, and it is no longer possible to build new storage facilities in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

Previously, TEPCO had stated that after purification treatment, most of the radioactive materials in nuclear wastewater can be removed, but the radioactive material “tritium” cannot be removed. Before discharging the nuclear wastewater treatment water into the ocean, they will dilute the concentration of “tritium” to one-fortieth of the Japanese national standard. Japan also claims that the treated water fully meets safety standards.

Japan’s decision was strongly opposed by countries and organizations around the world, especially its neighbors South Korea and China. According to the New York Times report on April 13, Eunjung Lim, an associate professor of international relations at Kongju National University in Gongju, South Korea, specializes in Japan and South Korea.

Whether their worries are rational or not, many people in the region “are going to be very, very anxious about what would happen if this radioactive material came into our near seas and contaminated our resources,” she said.

Even under the best of circumstances, Japan would find it “really difficult to persuade its neighbors to accept this kind of decision, because obviously, it’s not our fault. It’s Japan’s fault, so why do we have to experience this kind of difficulty?” she added.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China strongly condemns the decision made by the Japanese government on April 13, 2021, and stated that the nuclear wastewater discharge plan is extremely irresponsible, and pointed out that the Japanese government has acted in spite of domestic and foreign voices.

Local residents in Japan firmly opposed such a decision, especially the Fisheries Association expressed serious concerns. The local fishermen in Fukushima Prefecture have endured fishing restrictions for ten years, and the industry has always hoped to usher in a rebound after ten years of self-restriction. The government’s decision made them very disappointed.

According to a poll conducted by the Japanese daily “Asahi Shimbun” in January 2021, 55% of Japanese people oppose the discharge of nuclear wastewater, and 86% of Japanese people are worried about international acceptance.

Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel, a marine research institute in Germany has previously warned that it would only take 57 days for the radioactive materials from Japan’s contaminated water to spread to most of the Pacific Ocean. Shaun Burnie, a nuclear power expert at Greenpeace Japan Office, pointed out in a media interview that decontamination technology is limited and radioactive materials will damage human DNA.

Amid the opposition, the United States expressed support for this. An article published by CNN on April 13 mentioned a statement from the US State Department, “In this unique and challenging situation, Japan has weighed the options and effects, has been transparent about its decision and appears to have adopted an approach. in accordance with globally accepted nuclear safety standards,” the statement said, “We look forward to the (Japanese government’s) continued coordination and communication as it monitors the effectiveness of this approach.”

Some experts pointed out that, in general, the discharge of nuclear sewage into the sea would have an impact on humans. Experiments have shown that long-term consumption of radioactively contaminated seafood may cause excessive accumulation of radioactive substances in the human body, causing various damages to the endocrine system and nervous system and causing diseases.

On March 11, 2011, an earthquake with a magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale occurred in the waters of northeastern Japan and triggered tsunamis. The nuclear power plant located in the Fukushima Industrial Zone in Japan was affected by the earthquake and tsunami. The hydrogen and air leaked into the reactor reacted and exploded, causing radioactive materials to leak to the outside of the nuclear power plant.

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