Japan Minister Says Fukushima Radioactive Water Will Have To Be Dumped Into Pacific


Japan’s environment minister said today that the operator of the ruined Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant will have to dump huge quantities of contaminated water from the site directly into the Pacific Ocean. This move would no doubt enrage local fishermen.

Yoshiaki Harada told a news briefing in Tokyo on Tuesday, “The only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it. The whole of the government will discuss this, but I would like to offer my simple opinion.

Over 1 million tonnes of contaminated water has accumulated at the Fukushima plant since it was catastrophically struck by a tsunami in March 2011, triggering a triple meltdown that enforced the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.

The utility company Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) has struggled to control the buildup of groundwater, which becomes contaminated when it mixes with the fluid used to prevent the three damaged reactor cores from melting.

They have attempted to remove most radionuclides from the extra water, but at present, there is no technology to get rid of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Coastal nuclear plants generally dump water that contains tritium into the ocean as it occurs in minute amounts in nature.


Currently, over 1m tons of contaminated water is stockpiled in nearly 1,000 tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi site, but Tepco has warned that it will run out of tank space by the summer of 2022. Last year, the operator had admitted that the water in its tanks still contained contaminants beside tritium.

In his briefing, Harada did not mention how much water would need to be discharged into the ocean.

A recent study by Hiroshi Miyano, head of the committee studying the decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi at the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, says that it could take 17 years to release the treated water after it has been diluted to diminish the radioactive substances to levels that comply with the plant’s safety standards.

Any decision to dispose of the wastewater into the Pacific would anger local fishermen, who have scrupulously rebuilt their industry in the past eight years.

Neighbor South Korea has also expressed concern over the impact such dumping would have on the reputation of its own seafood. Last month, Seoul had summoned a senior Japanese embassy official to understand how Fukushima Daiichi’s wastewater would be dealt with.

Relations between the north-east Asian nations are already at a low ebb due to a compensation dispute over the oppression of Koreans by Japan during the Second World War.

The Japanese government has already spent 34.5bn yen (£260m) to construct a frozen underground wall to prevent groundwater from coming in contact with the three damaged reactor buildings. However, the wall has only succeeded in reducing the flow of groundwater from about 500 tons a day to about 100 tons a day.

Japan also faces renewed pressure to address the contaminated water issue before Tokyo hosts the Olympics and Paralympics next summer. During the city’s bid for the games six years ago, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, had assured the international community that the situation was “under control”.