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Tanks storing radioactive water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, in February
Nov 18, 2019
Japan’s industry ministry said Monday it would be safe to release water contaminated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster into the ocean, stressing that the amount of radiation measured would be very small compared to what humans are naturally exposed to annually.
Discharging the water into the Pacific Ocean over the course of a year would amount to between just one-1,600th and one-40,000th of the radiation that humans are naturally exposed to, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry told a government subcommittee on the issue.
Water used to cool the melted-down cores and groundwater near the disabled plant contains some radioactive materials, and is currently being collected and stored in tanks on the plant grounds.
But space is running out fast, and the government is exploring ways to deal with the water — already more than 100 tons and increasing every day.
According to the ministry, annual radiation levels near the release point is estimated at between 0.052 and 0.62 microsievert at sea and 1.3 microsieverts in the atmosphere, compared with the 2,100 microsieverts that humans are naturally exposed to annually.
While government officials stress the safety of releasing the water, opposition lawmakers as well as neighboring South Korea have expressed concern. Local fishermen are also opposed to the release of the water into the sea, fearing the potential impact on fish stocks.
The water is being treated using an advanced liquid processing system, or ALPS, though the system does not remove the relatively nontoxic tritium and has been found to leave small amounts of other radioactive materials.
The tanks storing the water are expected to become full by the summer of 2022, according to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The plant was disabled by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11, 2011.
A nuclear expert from the International Atomic Energy Agency said in 2018 that a controlled discharge of such contaminated water “is something which is applied in many nuclear facilities, so it is not something that is new.”