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Tuesday 7th February 2023
Japan May Delay Fukushima Plant Water Release 

Japan May Delay Fukushima Plant Water Release 

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Japan May Delay Fukushima Plant Water Release

TOKYO (AP) — Japan has revised the timing of a planned release to the sea of treated but still radioactive wastewater at the Fukushima nuclear power plant to “around spring or summer,” indicating a delay from the initial target of this spring, after factoring in the progress of a release tunnel and the need to gain public support.

The government and the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, announced in April 2021 a plan to begin releasing the treated wastewater into the sea starting in spring 2023. They say more than 1 million tons of water stored in about 1,000 tanks at the plant are hampering its decommissioning and risk leaking in the event of a major earthquake or tsunami.

Under the current plan, TEPCO will transport the treated water through a pipeline from the tanks to a coastal facility, where it will be diluted with seawater and sent through an undersea tunnel, currently under construction, to an offshore outlet. The company has acknowledged the possibility of rough winter weather and sea conditions delaying the tunnel progress.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters Friday the government has adopted a revised action plan, which includes enhanced efforts to ensure safety and measures to financially support the local fishing industry and a new release target of “around spring or summer this year.”

TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa said that despite the government’s new timing for the wastewater release, his company still aims to have the facility ready by the spring. He also acknowledged a lack of local understanding about the release and pledged to continue efforts to ease safety concerns.

A massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011 destroyed the Fukushima plant’s cooling systems, causing three reactors to melt and release large amounts of radiation. Water used to cool the damaged reactor cores, which remain highly radioactive, has since leaked into the basements of the reactor buildings and has been collected, treated and stored in tanks.

The release plan has been fiercely opposed by fishermen, local residents and Japan’s neighbors, including China and South Korea. Fukushima residents worry the reputation of their agricultural and fishing products will be further damaged.

Most of the radioactivity is removed from the water during treatment, but tritium cannot be removed and low levels of some other radionuclides also remain. The government and TEPCO say the environmental and health impacts will be negligible as the water will be slowly released after further treatment and dilution by large amounts of seawater.

Some scientists say the impact of long-term, low-dose exposure to tritium and other radionuclides on the environment and humans is still unknown and the release plan should be delayed. They say tritium affects humans more when it is consumed in fish.

Japan is cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency to increase the safety, transparency and understanding of the water discharge plan. An IAEA team that visited Japan a number of times for talks and plant inspections last year will visit again in January to meet with nuclear regulators and will release a final report before the planned release begins.

The Japanese government has announced that it may further delay the decision to release contaminated water into the ocean near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. This decision was made due to the concerns of local fishermen who are against this move, claiming that it will damage their reputation and disrupt the ecology of the area.

The water in question is contaminated with tritium, a by-product of the nuclear meltdown in 2011, and despite the fact that it is less radioactive than many other approved industrial and agricultural runoff, the public outcry has delayed the release.

The current plan involves diluting the water down to acceptable levels and then gradually releasing it into the ocean over a period of 30 years. Critics of this plan argue that this would not address the long-term effects of the radioactive waste in the ocean, nor would it solve the problem of the 800,000 tons of radioactive water already stored in tanks on the site.

The Japanese government is currently negotiating with local fishing groups to try and reach a consensus on the issue. In the meantime, the government has allocated $560 million dollars to research more effective ways to safely store or decommission the water.

The postponement of the water release is a sign of progress, but it will also cause a further delay in the decommissioning of the plant. The government has said that it will still make a decision on the water release in the near future, and has promised to consult closely with local groups on any actions taken.

As Japan attempts to put the tragedy of the Fukushima nuclear disaster behind them, it is apparent that the issues surrounding the decommissioning of the Daiichi nuclear power plant will remain contentious in both local and international arenas.

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  • 13/01/2023

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