Each day some 300 tons of water is used to cool the broken nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Nuclear Power facility. This becomes a part of the stored water in the over 10 meter tall steel tanks which hold over 750,000 tons of water stored at the plant (see first link below to see picture). As of February 2016 there were 1,106 water tanks on the property. The water is stored because during this process the water becomes irradiated with nuclear particles that make the water dangerous to human health. This process began following the earthquake that caused the tsunami and meltdowns at the power plant on a fateful day in March 2011.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company, that runs this plant, feels that it should be allowed to pump this water into the ocean. The problem they are trying to solve is what to do with the water. It is only through 10% of the decommissioning process that is expected to take an additional 30 – 40 years.
It treats the stored water before it is pumped into storage or presumably the ocean. Today they have deployed filtration devices that remove the dangerous isotopes of strontium and cesium. Unfortunately, they do not yet remove tritium that is very costly and difficult to remove.
An article that appeared in The Guardian on April 13, 2016 quoted Ken Buesseler, senior scientist of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He was commenting about the tritium released by the Fukushima plant, “I would think more has been put into the Irish Sea (from the UK’s Sellafield plant) than would ever be released off Japan.”
The same article goes on to quote Simon Boxall, an oceanographer at the University of Southampton who said, “Even if all of the contaminated water were released into the ocean, it would not contain enough tritium to be detectable by the time it dispersed and reached the US west coast about four years later.” The isotope has a half-life of 12.3 years and all of the storage tanks at the Fukushima Plant contain only 57ml of tritium.
While Simon Boxall dismisses the radioactive water issue, he is not so dismissive when it comes to the already heavily impacted fishing industry. He felt there might be local effects on fish caught in future years.
This fear is echoed by Dr. Ken Buesseler in an article in the April 24, 2015 Daily Beast. Remember the water used to cool Fukushima is filtered for cesium. His concern was cesium that has a half-life of 30 years. He said, “That’s a long time. So you take a contaminated tuna, put it in a can, and it takes 30 years for half of that cesium to decay away per natural processes.”
The quote continued, “The bad news is, the Japanese found, through their own monitoring data, cesium levels weren’t going down in fish. That means they’re getting a source – they’re getting fed more cesium. There are still leaks at the site.” Unfortunately the cesium and strontium remain high.
The point is that no one knows what the water will do to fish caught off Japan or fish in the ocean generally. They are radioactive and neither the oceans nor humans can afford more radioactive fish. Japan’s request to discharge the cooling water into the ocean should be turned down. The world cannot afford this solution.
This is a need that has fallen to the company that runs the plant. It may be that this company cannot afford to own more land as a site for water storage. Governments can help. The Japanese or American or the United Nations can come up with the cash that is needed. A concerned populace should provide the political cover so no one is burdened with the cost of storing 300 tons of water a day. We cannot have this contaminated water in the ocean.
Use the following links to access additional information or see the original documents that were the basis of this article.