Japan to dump another 54,600 tons of irradiated Fukushima water into sea this year

Posted on : 2024-02-21 16:45 KST Modified on : 2024-02-21 16:45 KST
With the ruined nuclear power plant still not decommissioned, it continues to create more wastewater by the day
Representatives of medical residents and interns who have declared their intent to collectively resign in protest of the government’s decision to increase the medical school admission cap hold an emergency extraordinary general delegate meeting on Feb. 20, 2024, at the headquarters of the Korean Medical Association in Seoul. (Yonhap)
Representatives of medical residents and interns who have declared their intent to collectively resign in protest of the government’s decision to increase the medical school admission cap hold an emergency extraordinary general delegate meeting on Feb. 20, 2024, at the headquarters of the Korean Medical Association in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Since Aug. 24, 2023, Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has released three batches of radioactive water from storage tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant for a total of 23,400 metric tons of water. The fourth batch of 7,800 tons is planned for the end of this month.

TEPCO intends to dump a total of 54,600 metric tons of contaminated water into the ocean from April 2024 to March 2025 in seven batches altogether.

The radioactive water is being decontaminated through the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), mixed with seawater to lower its radioactivity levels and then poured into the ocean near the damaged power plant through a 1-km-long underwater tunnel.

Since the power plant’s decommissioning has been delayed, 90 more tons of water are being contaminated each day, which leaves Japan struggling to fill what amounts to a bottomless pit. While Japan has managed to empty around 30 tanks by releasing contaminated water into the ocean, 20 more tanks have been filled during that process, so the total reduction thus far amounts to 10 storage tanks.

Another source of controversy is the safety of the dumping process. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which is monitoring the site of the Fukushima reactor, said there were no safety issues in a report released on Jan. 30 and that the release continued to conform to international standards.

But many inadequacies remain. To confirm the safety of the release, scientists from several countries ought to be allowed to take a range of samples to analyze changes in the radioactivity levels, but Japan has refused to allow that. President Yoon Suk-yeol of South Korea, who has otherwise condoned the release of contaminated water into the ocean, has asked that Korean experts be allowed to stay at the reactor on a continuing basis. But Japan is only letting those experts make regular visits.

In short, the current verification process depends on data from samples that were collected and analyzed by Japanese scientists.

There have been accidents, too. Last October, two workers cleaning the ALPS equipment were exposed to radiation when they were sprayed with wastewater. And on Feb. 7, around 1.5 tons of contaminated water had leaked from the facilities. 

In Japan, fishers and seafood processors continue to request compensation for damage caused by harmful rumors, including the Chinese government’s decision to ban imports of Japanese seafood, with 130 such requests made as of last December.

The Japanese government has established a fund of 80 billion yen to deal with domestic losses, and TEPCO is providing substantial amounts of compensation. However, people in neighboring countries, including Koreans who depend on the sea for their livelihoods, are not eligible for such compensation. 

By Kim So-youn, Tokyo correspondent

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