In this Aug. 1, 2019 photo taken from a Mainichi helicopter, storage tanks for radioactively contaminated water are seen on the grounds of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.
November 21, 2019
TOKYO (Kyodo) — The Japanese government on Thursday told embassy officials from nearly 20 countries that the health risk to humans of water contaminated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster would be “significantly small” even if it is entirely released into the ocean and atmosphere.
The briefing session was held to explain how the contaminated water is being dealt with after it is treated via an advanced liquid processing system that does not remove tritium and that causes small amounts of other radioactive materials to remain.
Government officials explained the health risk to humans would be “significantly small,” as discharging the treated water into the Pacific Ocean and atmosphere over the course of a year would lead to between just one-1,600th and one-40,000th of the radiation that humans are naturally exposed to, Foreign Ministry officials said.
The briefing session, attended by 19 embassy officials from 17 countries and a region, was held as the Japanese government has yet to decide what to do with the treated water that continues to build up following the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Water used to cool the melted-down cores and ground water near the crippled plant contains some radioactive materials, and is currently being collected and stored in tanks on the plant grounds.
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 nuclear power plant disabled by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11, 2011.
At the meeting, one embassy official asked whether other radioactive materials besides the relatively non-toxic tritium could be removed from the water before being discharged into the water.
A Japanese government official responded that it is possible if purification equipment is used, the officials said.
A similar explanation was offered Monday by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry at a government subcommittee on the issue.
The government plans to finalize its decision on how to deal with the water after the subcommittee draws a conclusion.
Among attendees at Thursday’s briefing session, South Korea had referred to the treated water as contaminated water at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in September and expressed concern over ocean discharge.
But the country did not raise any objections at the briefing session, the officials said.