Japan to start releasing Fukushima’s treated radioactive water


Japan will begin releasing 1.34 million tons of treated radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on Thursday.

What caused this: The plant was struck by a 14-meter tsunami that followed the Tōhoku earthquake — also known as the “Great East Japan Earthquake” — on March 11, 2011. This resulted in a nuclear accident that has progressively contaminated groundwater.

Release plan: The initial discharge, which will be released within a period of 17 days, will have a volume of 7,800 cubic meters. The rest will be discharged over the next 30 years.

Treatment process: The wastewater is being treated under the Advanced Liquid Processing System, which removes all radionuclides save for tritium. There is currently no technology to isolate it.

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Radioactive content: The discharge will reportedly contain 190 becquerels of tritium per liter. This is far below the World Health Organization’s drinking water limit of 10,000.

Approval: Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority approved the discharge on July 7, shortly after the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency concluded that the treated water would have “negligible radiological impact on people and the environment.”

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida gave the final greenlight on Tuesday, instructing TEPCO to start the release Thursday if weather conditions permit.

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Local response: A majority of Japanese citizens (55.8%) have expressed support for the discharge, according to a recent survey by Japanese news outlet FNN. Local fishing groups have been the most vocal critics of the plan, but the government claims an “understanding” is being reached.

International response: The discharge plan has drawn mixed reactions from world governments. Particular attention is being paid to China and South Korea, Japan’s immediate neighbors.

South Korea released a statement on Tuesday saying that it sees no problem with the scientific or technical aspects of the discharge plan. However, it also pointed out that it “does not necessarily agree with or support the plan.”

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China remains the plan’s most vocal foreign opposition, vowing to take “necessary measures to safeguard the marine environment, food safety and public health.” Hong Kong, a special administrative region, said it will “immediately activate import control measures.”

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