Japanese gov’t/TEPCO says solution to pollution is dilution as Fukushima Pacific sewage dump plan moves forward – EnviroNews


(EnviroNews World News) – Fukushima Prefecture, Japan – Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority has officially approved a controversial plan by TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) – the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant – to start dumping more than 1 million tonnes of radioactive waste water from the plant into the Pacific Ocean within two years. The plant was crippled in 2011 by an earthquake and tsunami that caused a disastrous triple meltdown. TEPCO says there is now a shortage of room to continue storing sewage on site, but experts critical of the plan say that is not really true.

The unprecedented evacuation plan is expected to last for decades, with sewage to be pumped through an 800-meter-long underwater tunnel that has yet to be built. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) approved the program last year, with IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi saying disposal at sea would be “both technically feasible and consistent with international practices”. Yet Grossi also admitted that “the large amount of water at the Fukushima plant makes it a unique and complex case.”

This leaves opponents of the plan with no further regulatory recourse. Opponents include Greenpeace Japan, United Nations (UN) human rights experts, the Chinese government (which called the strategy “extremely irresponsible”), as well as unions in the Japanese fishing industry.

Japanese fishermen fear seafood could be contaminated with tritium in sewage – a radioactive isotope that cannot be filtered out. Japanese regulators claimed that the tritium would be diluted below 1/40th of the level allowed for discharge in Japan and 1/7th of the World Health Organization (WHO) limit for drinking water.

Japan’s government has outlined a relief plan to help the fishing industry, saying last year it would set up a fund to buy and store freezable seafood from fishermen whose sales are plummeting due to environmental abuses. reputation of Fukushima releases. Details of the plan remain unclear, however, as does the potential damage of sewage to the food chain.

Radioactive water storage tanks at Fukushima Daiichi

55 countries and regions, including the United States, imposed import restrictions on Japanese seafood following the Fukushima collapses, but only five of them still have import bans (China, Korea South, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau).

EnviroNews contacted the IAEA, but the agency did not respond to a question about its endorsement of the controversial plan, while the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) predictably turned away from the IAEA.

“The United States is confident that the Japanese government, in conjunction with the International Atomic Energy Agency, has evaluated all available options and considered all appropriate international guidelines in its decision-making process. We understand that the “IAEA will continue to work closely with the Government of Japan to ensure that the approach taken is in line with globally accepted nuclear safety standards,” said Scott Burnell, NRC Public Affairs Officer at the United States. EnviroNews by email.

Greenpeace has another view, condemning the landfill plan and insisting that TEPCO’s claim about the lack of storage space in Fukushima is simply not true.

Following the IAEA’s endorsement of the program last year, Greenpeace Japan climate/energy campaign manager Kazue Suzuki said:

The Japanese government has once again failed the people of Fukushima. The government made the completely unjustified decision to deliberately contaminate the Pacific Ocean with radioactive waste. It dismissed the radiological risks and turned its back on the clear evidence that sufficient storage capacity is available at the nuclear site as well as in the surrounding districts. Rather than using the best available technology to minimize radiation risks by storing and treating the water long-term, they opted for the cheapest option, dumping the water into the Pacific Ocean.

Several human rights experts from the United Nations Human Rights Council have also expressed concern and regret over Japan’s dumping strategy, with the three special rapporteurs saying so in a statement last year. last :

Japan noted that tritium levels are very low and do not pose a threat to human health. However, scientists warn that tritium in water organically binds to other molecules, moving up the food chain affecting plants, fish and humans. They say the radioactive dangers of tritium have been underestimated and could pose risks to humans and the environment for over 100 years.

Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer and board member of Fairewinds Energy Education, has visited the Fukushima site four times over the past decade and agrees with Greenpeace’s assessment. In an interview with EnviroNewshe pointed out how the land next to the nuclear plant could be used for the subsequent storage of contaminated water.

“There are large tracts of pasture, immediately adjacent, which [are] highly contaminated…so they’re not going to use it for anything,” Gundersen said EnviroNews. “So they could build more tanks, but it costs them less to empty it than to build more tanks.”

Gundersen also disputes TEPCO’s assertion that the proposed dumping program will only involve a release of tritium, noting that there are still other radioactive isotopes of concern.

“They try to present this as a release of tritium, but in fact there are other isotopes in the water besides tritium. There’s strontium and cesium and things like that,” Gundersen said. “The isotope I’m concerned about is strontium-90, which is classified as an HDT – meaning difficult to detect.”

Gundersen noted that strontium is “a bone seeker” that causes leukemia and is difficult to detect because it emits a beta particle similar to other elements emitted at the same frequency. As for tritium, he noted that it occurs naturally in very low amounts, so measurements won’t find any appreciable increase 100 to 200 miles from where TEPCO predicts the release. The dump area itself, however, is another story.

“200 miles of ocean is a huge amount to contaminate because you’re too cheap to build more tanks,” Gundersen said. He pointed out that tritium has a half-life of 12 years, meaning the level of contamination would decrease by 50% in 12 years, 75% in 24 years, and would be considered broken down in 120 years.

Gundersen says the IAEA’s assertion that TEPCO’s dumping plan is in line with international practice is another blatant lie.

“This is not in line with international practice. You talk about dumping a thousand thousand ton tanks [of contaminated wastewater] per tank in the ocean. Nobody does that, it’s never been done,” Gundersen pushed back, adding that the IAEA is more concerned with protecting the image of the nuclear industry than protecting the oceans and the food chain.

Gundersen discusses the seriousness of the contamination of the Pacific by Fukushima on EnviroNews

“The IAEA is the servant of the nuclear industry. Article II of the IAEA charter is to promote nuclear energy, so you don’t get an objective analysis,” Gundersen laments.

Robert H. Richmond, research professor and director of the Kewalo Marine Laboratory at the University of Hawaii, expressed similar concerns earlier this summer in an article for code blue:

Safety claims are not scientifically supported by available information. The world’s oceans are shared by all peoples, providing more than 50% of the oxygen we breathe and a diversity of resources of economic, ecological and cultural value for present and future generations. In the Pacific islands in particular, the ocean is seen as connecting, rather than separating, widely distributed populations. Dumping radioactive contaminated water into the Pacific is an irreversible action with cross-border and transgenerational implications. As such, it should not be undertaken unilaterally by any country.

Richmond went on to call for a more cautious approach adhering to the precautionary principles. “The rush to dilute and gut is misguided and such actions should be deferred until further due diligence can be performed,” he said. “Solid science, a much closer examination of alternatives, and respect for the health and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific Rim require it,” Richmond concluded.


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