Japan: Fukushima Contaminated Water To Be Released Into The Sea on Thursday

Tokyo plans to dump more than 1.3 million tons of water into the Pacific Ocean from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Neighboring countries are protesting. Protests are also taking place in the Japanese capital.

The countdown has begun on the discharge of water into the sea from the former Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeast Japan, which was hit by a strong earthquake on March 11, 2011, followed by a tsunami that flooded its vital technological systems. The operation will begin on Thursday, August 24. This was announced by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida after personally inspecting the dismantling plant last Sunday. Tokyo, however, indicated that the operation would begin “only if weather conditions permit.”

Therefore, Tokyo plans to “very gradually” drain from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean more than 1.3 million tons of water coming from rain, groundwater, and pumping needed to cool the destroyed reactors. The unprecedented disaster cost the lives of 20,000 people, while an unknown number of Japanese are suffering from radiation diseases.

The Fukushima disaster, 12 years after the tragedy, is still ongoing and will not end in ten or a hundred years. This is related to the presence in the reactors of an indefinite amount of fissile material with a very high radioactivity concentration. No one knows exactly how much deadly material is inside the six reactors that are inaccessible to humans. The reactors must be continuously cooled. This is a very delicate operation that requires huge amounts of water. After coming into contact with radioactive material, this water, in turn, gets contaminated. Rainwater and even groundwater are added to the water used for cooling systems, which in turn requires complex decontamination procedures. Unfortunately, current technology cannot eliminate tritium, the concentration of which in Fukushima waters exceeds by six times the maximum levels previously set by Japanese and international health authorities.

Japan explained that this could not be done without the phased draining of water from the affected power plant into the sea: in July, nearly 1,000 tanks at the site were 98% full. As specified by the representative of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), builder (1966-1971), and current managing director of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, “a very long-term drain into the ocean is planned, which could continue until the early 2050s, with a maximum unloading of 500 thousand liters and the dilution of water to reduce radioactivity to levels well below national and international standards.”

Permission for the procedure was given by Kishida’s predecessor, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in April 2021. The project was confirmed in July 2023 by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which received a series of guarantees from Tokyo that the discharge of decontaminated waters into the Pacific Ocean would be safe for both the environment and humans.

China protested against this operation and completely banned the import of fish, as well as many food products that come from Japanese departments neighboring Fukushima. South Korea has ordered “very strict health checks.” Representatives of Japanese environmental movements organized protest marches in Tokyo in front of Prime Minister Kishida’s headquarters. Even before the waters are drained, the Japanese fishing industry is already beginning to experience heavy consequences for its products’ image.