Over 1.2 million tons of water has been stockpiled since 2011 earthquake/tsunami
Roughly 1,000 tanks holding 1.2 million tons of diluted but still radioactive water will be released into the ocean starting next year.
The toxic stockpile stems from damage to the Fukushima nuclear power station by a horrific 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The incident damaged the plant’s cooling systems and caused three reactor cores to melt.
According to the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the water has been treated with an “advanced liquid processing system” (ALPS) to remove most radioactive isotopes, including cesium and strontium – but tritium is difficult to separate from water, because it closely resembles hydrogen, which is a natural component of water.
TEPCO plans to dilute the stored water with seawater to bring tritium to within allowable levels and discharge it to the ocean via a kilometer-long underwater pipe in early 2023.
A survey of local mayors in Fukushima and nearby prefectures found that nearly 60 percent opposed the release. The fishery cooperatives in those prefectures oppose it. The survey said that understanding of the plan by local residents and foreign countries had not been achieved.
South Korea previously criticized the plan, citing insufficient consultation. However, the team that will monitor the release was joined last July by a member from the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety. The team includes experts from 11 countries, including the United States, France, and China.
Release faces fierce opposition by fishermen
A release of the water into the sea has faced fierce opposition from local fishermen and residents who demand the government explain how it will address damage to the fishing industry. Fishermen and fishing cooperatives worry that consumers will not trust the safety of their products.
The government has said it will do its utmost to support local fisheries and provide compensation for any damages.
To address concerns, the government has created a fund to buy and store seafood products that can be frozen. It also pledged to help fishermen expand sales channels for fresh seafood items if domestic or export demands drop sharply as a result of the toxic water release.
“The government has given instructions to TEPCO to create a plan for compensating fishermen in case they suffer losses as a result of any harm caused by the release, including reputational harm,” SeafoodSource reported.
Regarding possible risks to U.S. fisheries, the Food and Drug Administration said “Tritium presents an extremely low human and animal health risk if consumed and any health risk would be further minimized with the dilution effects of discharge into the ocean.”