Radioactive Water from Fukishima to be Dumped into Ocean
According to reports emerging in the past week, the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc (TEPCO), will have to dump vast quantities of radiaoctive waste water from the site into the Pacific Ocean.
Tepco has reportedly been struggling to deal with the build up of groundwater at the site, which has become contaminated after coming into contact with water used to prevent the three damaged reactor cores from melting. More that 1 million tonnes of contaminated water has now accumlated at the site, with Tepco saying they will run out of storage by 2022.
Tepco has attempted to remove most of the radionuclides from the waste water, but at present the technology does not exist to rid it of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Coastal nuclear plants commonly dump water that contains tritium into the ocean. However, Tepco admitted last year that the water in the tanks still contains contaminants beside tritium.
Japan's Environment Minister, Yoshiaki Harada, has been quoted as sying “The only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it,” Harada told a news conference. “The whole of the government will discuss this, but I would like to offer my simple opinion.” A final government decision on disposal of the tainted water is pending a report from an expert panel.
The government of Japan has spent 34.5bn yen (£260m) to build a frozen underground wall to prevent groundwater reaching the three damaged reactor buildings. However, the wall has only succeeded in reducing the flow of groundwater from around 500 tonnes per day to around 100 tonnes per day.