The Japanese prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, has recently announced plans to release contaminated radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the surrounding pacific ocean from 2023 over a course of 30-40 years.
The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant failed in 2011 following the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami, and it has since accumulated 1.25 million tonnes of water. The water has been used to cool the melted reactors impacted by the earthquake. At the moment, the water is filtered and treated as best as possible to remove any radioactive materials or contamination. This water has been stored in tanks in the surrounding area, but Japanese officials have come to the decision to begin releasing it into the ocean due to a lack of space for new tanks, which they believe will run out next autumn.
The decision has come under fire from environmental agencies such as GreenPeace, who accuse the Japanese government of ignoring human rights and maritime law by not properly considering the effects of releasing radioactive water into the pacific ocean. Their concerns are shared by many, including neighbouring countries- China has branded the decision “extremely irresponsible”- and local fisherman, who believe the work they have put in over recent years to restore the reputation of the japanese seafood industry will now be undone. This comes from the fact that tritium, a radioactive element present in the water, can be ingested through seafood from contaminated water which they believe will deter people consuming their seafood to prevent negative health impacts.
Although the move is largely opposed, there are those who believe it to be the best possible solution. The prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, described it as “unavoidable” and “the most realistic option”, as the plant will soon run out of places to store the contaminated water. The International Atomic Energy Agency also approves the decision; the water will be filtered and treated beforehand, which they state will remove any radioactive elements or at least lower them to a safe level. US officials supported the decision over twitter due to the filtration of the water and the fact that tritium is only toxic to humans in large amounts. They have since removed their tweets following backlash from environmental activists.