Fukushima wastewater to be released on Thursday

Japan is about to start releasing treated wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station.

Prime minister Fumio Kishida has announced that water from the damaged plant will be released into the Pacific Ocean from Thursday.

The water, which is currently being stored onsite, was used to cool reactors after the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami damaged the site.

It’s being treated prior to release, removing dangerous radioactive isotopes such as caesium, iodine and strontium.

The water when released will only have small amounts of radioactive hydrogen, called tritium, and carbon-14. It will be released over 30 years.

“The release of tritium from nuclear facilities into waterways has and is undertaken world-wide with no evidence of environmental or human health implications,” says Associate Professor Tony Hooker, director of the Centre for Radiation Research, Education and Innovation at The University of Adelaide.

“I welcome the news about the impending release and support Japan’s decision to commence disposal and believe they have a robust radiation management plan that has been approved by the IAEA, the Japanese NRC as well as other radiation protection agencies world-wide,” adds Hooker.

“Similar releases have occurred around the world for six decades, and nothing bad has ever happened,” says Associate Professor Nigel Marks, a physicist at Curtin University.

“In truth, almost everything is radioactive, including the Pacific Ocean, where tritium accounts for a modest 0.04% of total radioactivity. Despite the controversy, ocean release is the only practical option at Fukushima, and every conceivable step has been taken to choose the best decision that considers all factors.”

Professor Robert Richmond, director of the Kewalo Marine Laboratory at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, doesn’t agree.

“Japan’s decision to go forward with the release of the treated, radioactively contaminated water is not surprising, but certainly disappointing,” says Richmond.

“Both Japan and the IAEA can turn a challenging situation into an opportunity to explore and develop better approaches to nuclear disasters than ocean dumping.”

For more information on the wastewater release, read our explainer published in June.

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