According to the Associated Press, Japan’s government decided it will start releasing treated radioactive water accumulated at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean in two years. From the report: Under the basic plan adopted Tuesday by the ministers, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, also known as TEPCO, will start releasing the water in about two years after building a facility and compiling release plans adhering to safety requirements. It said the disposal of the water cannot be postponed further and is necessary to improve the environment surrounding the plant so residents can live there safely. TEPCO says its water storage capacity of 1.37 million tons will be full around fall of 2022. Also, the area now filled with storage tanks will have to be freed up for building new facilities needed for removing melted fuel debris from inside the reactors and for other decommissioning work that’s expected to start in coming years.
In the decade since the tsunami disaster, water meant to cool the nuclear material has constantly escaped from the damaged primary containment vessels into the basements of the reactor buildings. To make up for the loss, more water has been pumped into the reactors to continue to cool the melted fuel. Water is also pumped out and treated, part of which is recycled as cooling water, and the remainder stored in 1,020 tanks now holding 1.25 million tons of radioactive water. Those tanks that occupy a large space at the plant interfere with the safe and steady progress of the decommissioning, Economy and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said. The tanks also could be damaged and leak in case of another powerful earthquake or tsunami, the report said.
Releasing the water to the ocean was described as the most realistic method by a government panel that for nearly seven years had discussed how to dispose of the water. The report it prepared last year mentioned evaporation as a less desirable option. About 70% of the water in the tanks is contaminated beyond discharge limits but will be filtered again and diluted with seawater before it is released, the report says. According to a preliminary estimate, gradual releases of water will take more than 30 years but will be completed before the plant is fully decommissioned. Japan will abide by international rules for a release, obtain support from the International Atomic Energy Agency and others, and ensure disclosure of data and transparency to gain understanding of the international community, the report said. China blasted the Japanese government for being “extremely irresponsible,” and warned that it might take action. “The Japanese side has yet to exhaust all avenues of measures, disregarded domestic and external opposition, has decided to unilaterally release the Fukushima plant’s nuclear waste water without full consultation with its neighboring countries and the international community,” the foreign ministry statement said. “This action is extremely irresponsible and will pose serious harm to the health and safety of the people in neighboring countries and the international community.”
South Korea also isn’t happy with Japan’s decision. “The government expresses strong regret over the Japanese government’s decision to release contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean,” said Koo Yoon-cheol, head of South Korea’s Office for Government Policy Coordination.