How to deal with the nuclear sewage generated by the leakage of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan has always been a major problem.
As the nuclear sewage storage tank at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan is about to be filled, the Japanese government is considering discharging a large amount of stored nuclear sewage into the sea.
It is estimated that it will take two years to prepare for discharge. The existing approximately 1.2 million tons of polluted water will be fully processed and discharged. It took about 30 years.
According to a Japanese media report on the 24th, the Japanese government may make a formal decision on the issue of “nuclear sewage into the sea” after October, and the specific decision time has not been disclosed.
Earlier, Japanese media reported that the Japanese government will make this decision on the 27th of this month.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said during his visit to Indonesia on the 21st that he would decide on the above-mentioned contaminated water treatment plan as soon as possible.
Japan’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Toyoshi Matata said on the 21st that the contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear accident was diluted and discharged into the sea under the premise of relevant standards, and it would not have an impact on the marine environment and marine life.
However, some Japanese media pointed out that the radioactive tritium in the contaminated water treated by Tokyo Electric Power Company is difficult to remove. In addition, other radioactive substances will remain in the sewage.
Where does the nuclear sewage come from?
The tsunami triggered by the 311 earthquake in Japan in 2011 destroyed the diesel power generation system that drives the cooling system of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, causing the three reactors to overheat and the furnace core to melt down.
In response to the accident, Tokyo Electric Power Company injected seawater and fresh water into the damaged core for cooling. The water was contaminated with radioactive elements, including tritium, cesium 134, cesium 137, iodine 129, strontium 90, and cobalt 60. Up to now, the nuclear sewage used to cool the furnace core has reached about 1.2 million tons.
Tokyo Electric Power Company stored the water in storage tanks after processing by the multi-nuclides removal device (ALPS), and the accumulated water reached more than 1.2 million tons.
Due to land constraints, Tokyo Electric Power Company can now build up to 1.37 million tons of storage tanks. “Yomiuri Shimbun” said on the 17th that now 140 tons of polluted water are added every day, and Tokyo Electric Power Company estimates that by September 2022, it will reach the upper limit of 1.37 million tons of storage tanks.
The sea is the best trash can?
According to the United Nations News Network, Japan’s previously envisaged nuclear sewage treatment plan includes discharge into the sea, discharge into the atmosphere after evaporation, burying underground, and new storage tanks in nuclear power plants .
Japanese government committee issued a report in February this year: “Discharging into the ocean or atmosphere is the most realistic choice.”
The British “Financial Times” said on the 16th that scientists who provided advice to the Japanese government considered a series of treatment options, including evaporating it into the atmosphere or burying it in the ground.
However, diluting wastewater and discharging it into the ocean is considered the safest and most economical method.
Is there really no other option other than discharge to the ocean? Some analysts believe that from the perspective of Tokyo Electric Power, there is indeed no place available, but from the perspective of the Japanese government, there is still a vast space available around the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
The amount of nuclear radiation in some areas is still very high. The Japanese government designated it as a “temporarily inhabitable area.” If a new storage point is expanded here, not only the conditions are met, but the risks during the processing are also controllable.
For example, the disintegration time of nuclear power plants is about 30-40 years, and the increase in nuclear waste water in 10 years is basically known, and the treatment methods will continue to be improved.
In other words, in the future, up to 4500-6000 storage tanks can be built to hold all nuclear waste liquids. Since these lands cannot be inhabited, why let them go to waste?
Opposition in Japan and abroad
The “discharge of polluted water from the Fukushima nuclear accident into the sea” plan has been strongly opposed by the National Fisheries Association of Japan and local fishermen in Fukushima.
Regarding the discharge of nuclear waste water into the sea, a poll conducted by Japan’s “Yomiuri Shimbun” shows that 50% of Japanese citizens oppose it. In a survey conducted in March this year, 68% of people believed that the decision should be postponed.
However, after the Japanese government decided to discharge nuclear waste water into the sea, the opposition increased significantly.
According to Japanese media reports such as the Mainichi Shimbun, the Fukushima Common Center for Reconstruction, which is composed of the Communist Party of Japan and some social groups, submitted an opinion to the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry on the 20th, resolutely opposed to the discharge of nuclear sewage to the Pacific, and believed that it should continue on land.
Save these sewage. The “Nuclear Citizens Committee”, a Japanese citizen group composed of university professors, issued a public statement on the 20th, expressly opposing the discharge of nuclear sewage into the ocean, saying that the government should do its best to cool nuclear fuel rods to prevent sewage.
The President of Japan’s National Fisheries Cooperative Federation met with five relevant cabinet officials in Tokyo on the 15th and 16th and submitted a petition, stating that fishery practitioners are unanimously opposed to nuclear sewage entering the sea,
“(If it is discharged into the sea) The efforts of fishery practitioners in the past ten years will come to nothing.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian recently stated that Japan should make a decision after consulting with neighboring countries.
South Korea also responded immediately, announcing the activation of a cross-departmental response mechanism. In fact, as early as June, the United Nations special rapporteur concerned about the disposal of hazardous materials and other issues urged
Japanese government not to ignore its obligations on nuclear waste disposal, not to take advantage of the epidemic and not go through international consultations.
Force nuclear waste water into the sea. The International Atomic Energy Agency has also stated that Japan needs to actively communicate with neighboring countries and the international community, and announce to all stakeholders relevant information about the discharge of nuclear sewage into the Pacific.
Nuclear sewage into the sea pollutes or damages human DNA
In August this year, the US “Science” magazine stated that the nuclear sewage treatment tank of the Fukushima nuclear power plant also contains a variety of radioactive components, and more attention needs to be paid to the potential dangers that may be caused by the release of this sewage into the ocean.
In these radioactive sewage, there is a kind of isotope-tritium attracts attention. In these radioactive sewage, the content of tritium is at the highest level, and it is not easily absorbed by marine animals and seabed sediments. In addition to tritium, which is difficult to remove
Scientists discovered in 2018 that there are some radioactive isotopes in the treated sewage, including carbon 14, cobalt 60 and strontium 90. Unlike tritium, they take longer to degrade, and they easily enter marine sediments and are easily absorbed by marine life. These isotopes are potentially toxic to humans and can affect the marine environment in a longer and complex manner.
For example, the physiological concentration of carbon 14 in fish may be 50,000 times that of tritium. While cobalt 60 can be enriched in seabed sediments, the concentration may rise 300,000 times. In addition to radioactive materials that may cause serious pollution to the marine environment, due to ocean currents, radioactive materials may also spread to the entire Pacific Ocean and even the global marine environment along with ocean movements.
According to a CNN report on the 24th, Greenpeace International reported that these nuclear sewage contains the radioisotopes tritium and carbon-14. Among them.
carbon-14 is “the main contributor to human collective radiation dose and may damage human DNA .” Greenpeace According to Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear expert at the organization, there may be as much as 63.6GBq (gigabecquerel) of carbon-14 in the storage tank.
“These and other radionuclides in sewage will be dangerous for thousands of years and may cause genetic damage. This is why this plan (discharge into the sea) must be abandoned.”