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Uncertainty grows over Japan’s Fukushima wastewater dumping plans

Japan’s plan to release radioactive water from Fukushima nuclear plant into sea sparks outrage


By Patryk Krych | The World Daily | MAY 3rd 2021


Last month, Japan announced that it intended to dump 1.25 million tons of treated wastewater into the Pacific Ocean. Controversies have arisen, especially in South Korea, due to the wastewater’s origin from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

The wastewater had initially been contaminated by the wrecked power plant, though officials claim that it’s been treated appropriately and is in no way harmful to either humans or the environment. Many Korean fisherman find the news troubling nonetheless, as the intended date for the wastewater dumping plans draws nearer.

“Releasing the treated water into the sea is a realistic solution,” said the Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga when the plans were being put together. “We will do our utmost to keep the water far above safety standards.”

Fisherman have expressed particular concern towards these plans, with protests growing in South Korea. Many of them insist that the release of this wastewater into the oceans could prove harmful not only to the marine life, but to the environment and fishing industry too – which Korea is fairly reliant on.

“When Fukushima contaminated water is discharged, people will avoid seafood and fishermen will lose their jobs,” said Lee Dong-ho, a fisherman who’s been fishing off the Southern coast of South Korea for over 40 years. His business is dependant on the fish, he expressed to Al Jazeera.

The South Korean fishing industry has seen a gradual and positive change over the many years, due to many environmental criticisms to do with their rate of overfishing. The industry is far more balanced now, but there are circulating fears that the dumping of this Fukushima wastewater may give rise to new complications.

25 fisheries in South Korea has joined together to form a coalition, writing a formal protest to the Japanese government concerning the issue, having written that “Our industry is on course to suffer annihilating damage, just with people’s concerns about a possible radioactive contamination of marine products.”

The plan for the wastewater discharge begins with the Fukushima plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO). TEPCO will be in charge of treating the water, diluting it down to levels that can be considered ‘safe’ before releasing it gradually into the water, bit by bit, over the course of multiple decades. With a million metric tons of wastewater to get rid of, it’s expected to take a number of years.


In response to the many concerns, Brent Heuser, a professor of nuclear, plasma and radiological engineering from the University of Illinois told CNBC that there is nothing to be concerned about. The dilution process will leave only a substance called ‘tritium’ in the wastewater, which he claims isn’t environmentally harmful in small quantities.

“Tritium is not dangerous in small amounts ... it’s gonna be very dilute, it is simply not a concern, the environmental impact is zero,” said Heuser.

Regardless of this, many environmentalists and fishing industries remain unconvinced. The Fukushima disaster occurred in 2011, when Japan was hit by and earthquake which had been followed by a tsunami. The contaminated waters have been a problem in the plant since the incident, being too dangerous to simply dump into the ocean as wastewaters without putting them through a treatment process.

“I would say to people who are concerned about this going into the ocean: We dump 8 tons of plastics in the ocean, pregnant women are not supposed to eat tuna because of mercury poisoning, microplastic is in the marine food chain — this is what we should be worried about,” added Heuser.

Despite this, the environmental group Greenpeace has pointed out that Tritium isn’t entirely understood as an environmental threat. Fears are arising among such environmental groups that Tritium may in fact enter marine vegetation and this find its way into the food chain. The possibility of this has been warned of in a study, ‘Stemming the tide 2020: The reality of the Fukushima radioactive water crisis.’


By Patryk Krych | © The World Daily 2021