February 26, 2023
At the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, preparations for the ocean discharge of treated wastewater are steadily advancing, and the construction of facilities is nearing its final stage. The government plans to begin discharging the water “around this spring or summer. The government and TEPCO have promised the Fukushima Prefectural Fisheries Federation that they will not discharge the water into the ocean without the understanding of the concerned parties, but it is still unclear how they will determine whether they have gained their understanding. The process is proceeding haphazardly, with the understanding that there will be a “release of radioactive materials. （The TEPCO is expected to complete the construction work by June.)
◆TEPCO plans to finish the work by June.
Construction is going well. At a press conference on August 22, Akira Ono, chief executive officer of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Decommissioning Promotion Company, explained in an unaffected tone.
TEPCO began construction of the facilities in August of last year. On August 14, TEPCO completed digging a hole in the seafloor at the discharge point about 1 km offshore, installing a reinforced concrete discharge port, and backfilling the hole. The digging of the undersea tunnel connecting to the discharge port began at the seaward site of Units 5 and 6 and was completed to approximately 830 meters. Work is also progressing on a water tank to be installed along the seafront to temporarily store treated water before discharge, as well as laying pipes to carry treated water from the tank area to the seaward side. TEPCO plans to complete all construction work by June.
On April 14, TEPCO submitted a revised discharge plan to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), which includes details on the measurement of radiation levels before discharge. The procedures up to the release of radioactive materials are also being finalized.
◆Government to spend 80 billion yen on measures for fishermen and TV commercials
The government is also hurrying preparations, creating a 50 billion yen fund for fishermen in a supplementary budget for FY2022. The fund is intended to support the continuation of the fishing industry and is targeted at fishermen nationwide. The FY 2009 supplementary budget also includes a 30 billion yen fund to purchase fishery products in the event of harmful rumors, for a total of 80 billion yen to be invested in measures for fishermen.
In December of last year, the company began TV commercials to promote the fact that the tritium concentration in the treated water to be discharged into the ocean is lower than the government’s effluent standard. At a cabinet meeting held in January of this year, a target of starting the discharge of tritium from spring to summer was clearly stated, saying, “The menu necessary to ensure safety and to counter rumors has been prepared.
◆There is no prospect of gaining the necessary “understanding of all concerned parties.
However, it remains to be seen whether the actual release of radioactive materials will be possible. In 2003, the government and TEPCO promised in writing to the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fishermen’s Associations that “no disposal (ocean discharge) will take place without the understanding of all concerned parties. The National Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, in its chairman’s statement last November in response to the establishment of a 50 billion yen fund, praised the commitment, saying that it “was taken seriously as an effort to build a relationship of trust,” but also warned that “this alone will not ensure the fishermen’s understanding.
Immediately after the cabinet meeting in January of this year, at which the timing of the release was outlined, the chairman issued a statement saying, “Our opposition to ocean discharge has not changed in the slightest,” thus maintaining his stance of opposition.
The government and TEPCO officials simply stated that they would “continue to explain the situation to foster understanding,” and no further answers were given at the meeting held on January 25. It cannot be said that the fishermen “understand” the situation, yet they refuse to change their stance on releasing the water.
Processed water at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Contaminated water generated during the cooling of melted-down nuclear fuel (debris) in Units 1-3 is purified and treated in the “Advanced Landfill Processor (ALPS). Tritium, a radioactive substance, could not be removed and remains in the water. Contaminated water is generated when cooling water to the reactors comes in contact with debris, and the amount increases when mixed with groundwater and rainwater that flows into the buildings. Currently, approximately 100 tons per day is generated, and the amount of treated water in storage was approximately 1,320,000 tons as of March 16. Including water in progress, 96% of the tank capacity has been filled.
According to the government and TEPCO’s plan, a large amount of seawater will be mixed with the treated water to reduce the tritium concentration to less than 1/40th of the national effluent standard, and then the water will be discharged from the seafloor about 1 km offshore.