Twelve years after an earthquake and tsunami destroyed parts of the Fukushima nuclear plant and contaminated the water supply, the United Nations has approved Japan’s highly anticipated waste disposal plan, which involves slowly dumping treated and radioactive water into the ocean.
The UN’s atomic energy agency says the initiative, which was first announced in 2021, meets international standards and will have minimal impacts on the sea environment and people’s health.
Since the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, the polluted water has been collected, treated and stored in tanks at the station. But the tanks – which number about 1,000 – will reach capacity in early 2024, The Associated Press reported.
In 2021, the Japanese government He said it would empty the water at sea for several decades. They say the water must be removed to prevent new leaks and prepare to decommission the damaged plant.
The treated polluted water will be released 1,000 yards from shore through an undersea tunnel, the Associated Press reports, after the company that owns the plant obtains a permit in about a week.
What did the United Nations say about Fukushima radioactive water?
The report, presented by the UN experts on Tuesday, is the group’s final assessment of the water disposal project. In an executive summary, the UN leaders said that the Japanese government was responsible for creating a plan to dump polluted water into the ocean, and that the UN did not necessarily endorse the idea.
Rafael Mariano Grossi said, “I would like to stress that the release of treated water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant is a national decision by the Government of Japan and that this report is neither a recommendation nor an endorsement of this policy.” Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The head of the UN agency visits Fukushima Wednesday
On Wednesday, Grossi visited some of the major facilities that will release treated radioactive water into the sea.
“What’s happening is nothing exceptional, a bizarre plan conceived only to implement it here and sell it to you,” Grossi said in his opening remarks in Iwaki, 25 miles south of the plant. “This, according to IAEA certification, is the general practice that has been agreed upon and observed in many, many places around the world.”
“We will remain here with you for decades to come until the last drop of water accumulating around the reactor is safely drained,” he said.
Seafood is in high demand ahead of the planned release of radioactive water
Earlier this summer, some South Korean shoppers began buying sea salt and seafood in bulk to stock up on at home ahead of Japan’s planned release of polluted water, Reuters reported.
Retailers have also begun stocking up, fearing supply shortages in South Korea, Japan’s closest neighbor.
Reuters reported in June that “South Korean fisheries authorities have pledged to step up efforts to monitor natural salt farms for any rise in radioactive material and maintain a ban on seafood from waters near Fukushima.”
Why does the Japanese government want to drain radioactive water into the ocean?
Other countries including China, South Korea, the United States and France have dumped radioactive water into the ocean in the past. The method requires contaminated water to be diluted and then gradually released.
The radioactive water from Fukushima will first be filtered to reduce the level of contaminants below international standards, and then it will be diluted in seawater 100 to 1 before being released into the ocean.
The water that Japan plans to release into the sea contains cesium and other radioactive materials. The government’s plan says it will be filtered to bring it below international standards for those materials.
But the plan says water cannot be filtered without international standards for tritium, which is inseparable from water, the Associated Press reported.
Japanese fisheries oppose the discharge of radioactive water
While this week’s report represents the UN’s final assessment of the plan, the agency said “there will be continuous monitoring of water discharges and their impacts.”
“The IAEA is committed to working with Japan on Alpine treated water discharges not only before, but also during, and after treated water discharges occur,” the report says.
In Japan, local outlets report that fishermen are concerned about what releasing water will mean for their way of life.
“I am very worried because I don’t know how much the release of treated water will affect my work and my livelihood,” Itatsu Kikuchi, a fisherman in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, said. Japan Today said.
“No matter how hard we try, we can’t prevent tarnishing the Fukushima brand,” he told the outlet.
Contributing: The Associated Press
“Travel specialist. Typical social media scholar. Friend of animals everywhere. Freelance zombie ninja. Twitter buff.”