Japan Faces Dilemma Over Radioactive Water From Fukushima Plant Destroyed by the 2011 Tsunami

Date: 2020-03-11 10:27:07

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Japan is debating over what to do with nearly 1.2 million tons of still-radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Katsumi Shozugawa is a radiology expert at the University of Tokyo who has been analyzing groundwater around the plant.

He says, “What most people worry about is the impact on marine life and the fish we eat.”

The plant’s operator TEPCO, will release the water into the nearby ocean but remains vague on the timing.

Meanwhile, a panel will recommend to the government that swelling volumes of treated radioactive water from the plant should be released into the ocean or evaporated.

A Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry panel agreed to the options during a meeting in Tokyo and will send the recommendations in a report to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which will make the final decision on how to proceed. The draft report made public at the meeting Friday didn’t include a proposed timing for the release.

“The options we are proposing are realistic and feasible,” panel chairman Ichiro Yamamoto told reporters after wrapping up their three-year discussion on the issue. “It’s up to the government which option to take.”

Storage tanks at the site, which hold water treated by a nuclide-removal facility called ALPS, are forecast to be full by mid-2022 and space for building more is scarce. While South Korea and local fishing groups in Fukushima prefecture strongly oppose an ocean release, discharges are common practice in the industry and would likely meet global guidelines.

It is easier to monitor the impact of released water on the environment than to check the influence of evaporation, METI director for decommissioning and contaminated water management Shuji Okuda said Friday. While releasing the water into the ocean may have a major impact on fishing and tourism, evaporation could affect wider industries, he added.

Any water that is released into the environment will be re-purified and diluted to meet standards and the discharges would take place over decades, according to a December report from METI.

“For the recovery of Fukushima people from the disaster, the nuclear plant must be scrapped,” Yamamoto said. “Removing the water from the plant is part of its decommissioning.”

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