The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan has restarted its third release of treated and diluted radioactive wastewater into the sea. The previous two releases were reported to have ended without issues.
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) confirmed that 7,800 tons of treated water were discharged in each of the first two batches, and the same amount is planned for the current batch until November 20th.
To dilute the treated water, TEPCO workers have activated one of the two pumps, gradually mixing the treated water with large amounts of seawater. This mixture is being sent into the Pacific Ocean through an undersea tunnel for offshore release.
The initial release of wastewater occurred in August, and it will continue for several decades due to the substantial volume of approximately 1.33 million tons of radioactive wastewater stored in about 1,000 tanks at the plant. This accumulation resulted from the severe earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan in 2011, causing significant damage to the facility.
Both TEPCO and the government assert that discharging the water into the sea is imperative since the tanks are nearly full and decommissioning the plant is necessary.
These wastewater discharges have faced strong opposition from fishing groups and neighboring countries, particularly South Korea, where numerous protests have taken place. China, in response, swiftly imposed a ban on all imports of Japanese seafood, adversely affecting Japanese seafood producers and exporters.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida expressed that Japan has consistently provided transparent and scientific explanations regarding the discharge, and many members of the international community have shown understanding. However, he acknowledged that some countries have imposed restrictions on Japanese seafood without scientific justification.
Kishida stated that it is crucial to continue patiently explaining the situation to those countries on a bilateral level to request the lifting of restrictions. Additionally, he emphasized the importance of firmly representing Japan’s position in international meetings and organizations such as the World Trade Organization.
International Atomic Energy Agency’s Conclusion
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has conducted several missions to Japan, including with Chinese scientists, over the past two years. In July, the IAEA concluded that Japan’s planned release of treated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea would have a negligible impact on the environment, marine life, and human health. Mission officials from the IAEA expressed satisfaction with the smooth operation thus far.
China’s Call for International Cooperation
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, emphasized on Thursday that Japan should address the concerns raised by the international community. Wang further urged Japan to engage in full consultation with stakeholders, including neighboring countries, and establish a long-term international monitoring arrangement that includes participation from these neighboring nations. Wang also called upon the IAEA to play a significant role in overseeing the process and for Japan to fully cooperate.
Measures Taken by Japan
To mitigate the impact of China’s seafood ban, Japan’s government has established a relief fund to explore new markets. Additionally, both central and local governments have initiated campaigns encouraging fish consumption and supporting Fukushima. These efforts have garnered support from many consumers.
Water Release Process
Before the release, the water from Fukushima is treated to remove as much radioactivity as possible. It is then significantly diluted with seawater. While TEPCO and the Japanese government assert that this process is safe, some scientists argue that continuous releases should be closely monitored due to their unprecedented nature.
Finding Tritium in Water Samples
Initial results from marine samplings conducted by TEPCO and the government have detected tritium in the water. However, they maintain that tritium cannot be separated using existing technology. The detected levels of tritium are reported to be much lower than the World Health Organization’s standard for drinking water.
IAEA’s Evaluation of Water Samples
The IAEA has stated that its analysis of water samples, conducted by agency experts stationed at its Fukushima office, revealed tritium concentrations “far below the operational limit.”
Setback in Operations
Recently, two plant workers were exposed to radioactive waste while cleaning piping at the water treatment facility. They were subsequently hospitalized but have since been released and are under monitoring. TEPCO reported that none of the workers ingested any of the waste.