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A general view shows storage tanks for contaminated water at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, in Okuma of Fukushima prefecture in January 20, 2023. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)

Japan’s radioactive water release

Japan’s radioactive water release


Japan is going to dispose of radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant by pumping it into the Pacific Ocean. But there have been strong objections from environmental campaigners and neighbouring countries.

Japan is due to dispose of radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant by pumping it into the Pacific Ocean. 

Every day, for more than a decade, tens of thousands of gallons of water have been poured over the wrecked reactors to cool them down. That contaminated water is then housed in huge tanks at the plant. According to the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) the site has amassed more than 340 million gallons. That’s roughly equivalent to 500 Olympic-size swimming pools. Space is running out.

Jim Smith, professor of environmental science at the University of Portsmouth, told Tortoise that releasing radioactive water like this is “routine”.

“These releases happen all the time and have been happening for decades. Actually, in many cases at a much bigger scale. There’s a nuclear power station in China that emits about three times more tritiated water than the Fukushima release will do. There’s one in the UK that emits about 20 times more. There’s a reprocessing facility in the north of France, which emits 450 times more into the English Channel,” said Smith.

But that hasn’t stopped environmental groups, local fishermen and countries in the Pacific region from voicing their concerns. 

There are concerns that people won’t want to buy the fish caught in the waters off Fukushima if Tepco does release the radioactive water.

In neighbouring countries like South Korea, shoppers have been bulk buying sea salt out of fear of future contamination.

Hong Kong and China have threatened to stop imports from Fukushima, but the International Atomic Energy Agency has approved the discharge.

The Japanese government says the release of radioactive water could begin as early as today. 

Scientists say the ocean will be safe to swim in but the real test of public confidence will come in a month’s time when an international surf competition is planned to take place off the coast of Fukushima.