Japan to Release Meltdown-contaminated Water into Sea: Reports

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October 19, 2020

Officials at the disaster-ravaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant will release radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean, according to Japanese media reports.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

The plant, the site of a nuclear meltdown triggered by a very strong earthquake that then triggered a massive tsunami, has been struggling to contain leaking radioactive material in the nine years since. Much of the contaminated water is stored in a large number of very large tanks, from which water has leached into the ground off and on through the years. The plan is to release more than a million tons of that contaminated water into the sea as early as 2022. Officials said that they would dilute the water before releasing it; further, the officials said, they would not release a torrent but, instead, would embark on a slow release plan that would finish after 30 years. Estimates are that the tanks would overflow is the water is not released in two years' time.

Nine years after the March 11, 2011, meltdown, the plant is fast running out of storage space for all of that water, which has included rainwater through the years as well. Even so, an advanced tech filtration system has removed a large amount of the radioactive materials still in the water. Officials have stored the filtered water in the tanks because they cannot remove one particular nuclear isotope, tritium. Scientists said that the amount of water released would further dilute the tritium, resulting in a low risk to the health of humans and animals. Environmental officials, however, warned that releasing the contaminated water into the sea would result in suspicion of health for the marine life in that part of the Pacific Ocean and that that could spill over into consumer caution against buying seafood caught there.

Other options considered through the years have been these:

  • using pipes to run the water deep into Earth's crust
  • wrapping cement around the water and burying it deep in the ground
  • releasing it into the atmosphere as steam
  • building more tanks and continuing to store the water
  • .

The Japanese Government is expected to make an official announcement within a few weeks.

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