Translated from french by Hervé Courtois (D’un Renard)
A massive amount of radioactive water is stored on the grounds of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant site ravaged by the tsunami of March 2011.
December 24, 2019
The decision is not expected to be announced before the Tokyo Olympics next summer, given the diplomatic risk. Japan is expected to face strong opposition.
Releasing the radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to the environment (in the sea or in the air) is the only option left since experts have ruled out long-term storage, Japanese officials say.
“The option of simple long-term storage is no longer being considered,” said a state official who wished to remain anonymous. And to clarify that the government’s ambition is to make room for Fukushima Daiichi: once the reactors are demolished and the site cleaned, there should be nothing left, including no water tanks still containing at least tritium.
A massive amount of radioactive water is stored within the confines of this site devastated by the tsunami of March 2011. It comes from rain, groundwater or injections necessary to cool the hearts of reactors that have melted. Filtered several times, it ‘should’ ultimately be rid of a large amount of radionuclides, except tritium, ‘considered’ less dangerous for the environment and living beings.
A water still heavily loaded
Long-term storage, which was recommended by environmental organizations like Greenpeace, being no longer validated, three options remain considered the most feasible, from a technical and economic point of view: dilution at sea, evaporation in the air or a combination of the two.
Experts, including those from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), have been pushing for dilution at sea for years. But this is not feasible at the moment because, as recognized by the company Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), a large part of this water is still heavily loaded with radioactive elements dangerous for the food chain.
Tepco estimates, however, that the tanks will be full in 2022.
A final decision should not be made before the Tokyo Olympics in the summer of 2020, given the diplomatic risk. A government subcommittee responsible for the file is thus studying not only the technical implications, but also the potential damage to the country’s image abroad.
Japan is set to face strong opposition, already expressed, from fishermen and farmers in the region, as well as from environmental groups and neighboring countries, starting with South Korea. Seoul did not digest a previous decision to dump radioactive water packages into the sea immediately after the Fukushima accident, without asking its advice.