Jakarta, CNBC Indonesia – Japan announced it will start releasing treated water from its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant this weekend.
The water was initially contaminated after the 2011 earthquake that destroyed the reactor. The nuclear “washing” water is planned to be discharged on Thursday (24/8/2023) and will be the first step in a gradual process that is quite controversial.
It has now been 12 years since a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit the coast of the Japanese island of Honshu, causing more than 18,000 deaths and triggering a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Since then, the reactor has been cooled and 1.3 million tons of contaminated wastewater has been treated. This water is stored in more than 1,000 tanks but has limited storage space, and must now be disposed of as part of an ongoing phase-out process.
Plans for its release have been drawn up by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and approved by the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and various independent scientists. IFLScience.
Even so, there are still objections from fishermen’s groups for fear that this will damage their reputation. China has also expressed skepticism about the safety of the plan, with Hong Kong declaring that it would soon activate controls on imports of Japanese seafood from territories such as Tokyo and Fukushima.
Greenpeace also voiced concern about the risks posed by some radioactive elements remaining in water, particularly tritium, carbon-14, strontium-90 and iodine-129.
Meanwhile South Korea has taken a more cautious stance, agreeing to the scientific and technical aspects of the plan but not “must” support it.
Is Fukushima’s water safe for humans?
Reported from LiveScience, the main concern is that the treated water will contain harmful isotopes that pose a risk to humans and marine ecosystems. However, the treated water has been filtered and nearly all harmful isotopes have been removed, except for traces of tritium.
Tritium, an isotope of hydrogen, is difficult to completely separate from water, but tritium has been diluted so that its levels are far below regulatory limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO). Tritium is considered relatively harmless to humans because its radiation cannot penetrate human skin.
In addition, the Japanese government will monitor the water as it is released and have assured the world that they will stop dumping it if they detect very high concentrations of radioactive material.
The next question, can Fukushima water be drunk? In short, the filtering process has removed or diluted the radioactive isotopes in such a way that the water is deemed safe to drink.
However, it is basically seawater. Those who drink it can be killed by the salt content rather than the remnants of contamination.