Japan Plans To Release Thousands Of Tons Of Fukushima Waste Into The Pacific, With Highly Radioactive Waste Under Seabed

Japan has been dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster for the past five years. However, things do not seem to be getting easier for those maintaining the defunct nuclear plant. The topic of dumping nuclear waste into the Pacific has been hotly debated across the globe, but it appears that officials have finally decided to give Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) the go-ahead to dump thousands of tons of nuclear waste containing tritium into the ocean. TEPCO was previously allowed to dump upwards of 200 tons of "filtered" nuclear waste into the ocean starting in September of last year after an initial 850 ton dump.

The Fukushima nuclear plant disaster left Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) with a tough situation on their hands. The plant was leaking hundreds of tons of nuclear waste into nearby groundwater which resulted in the need for barrier walls to be built. After the walls were built, TEPCO officials were unsure if the radioactive material was being contained, and many across the globe worried about the potential negative effects of the contaminated waste entering the Pacific. However, those worries were quickly pushed aside as TEPCO revealed that they had another mounting issue on their hands: what to do with all of the groundwater pumped into the nuclear station to keep the reactors cool. The Guardian reports that each day 300 tons of water are pumped through Fukushima's ruined reactors to keep them from overheating. As the water washes through the plant it collects a slew of radioactive particles. This water is then collected in barrels.

Anti-nuclear power advocates use Fukushima as an example of what can go wrong. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)

TEPCO began worrying about the potential hazard with collecting the radioactive waste in the barrels, fearing an "uncontrolled" release was imminent. Due to these fears, RT reports that in September of 2015, the Fukushima plant began dumping this groundwater through a filter and then into the ocean. The filtration system was designed to remove enough contaminants from the water to make it "acceptable" for dumping. The current standards employed by TEPCO allow for "one becquerel of radioactive cesium per liter of decontaminated groundwater, three becquerels for elements that emit beta rays and up to 1,500 becquerels for tritium, which cannot be removed with existing technology."

Radioactive Water Leaks From Another Tank at Fukushima Plant
Fukushima Nuclear plant reactors. (Photo by Tokyo Electric Power Co via Getty Images)

The first dump by the Fukushima plant allegedly took place in September and involved 850 tons of the "filtered" nuclear waste. Yahoo News reports that the dump in 2015 was the first time that TEPCO intentionally dumped once-radioactive waste into the ocean.

"Monday was the first time the plant, whose reactors went into meltdown after being hit by a huge tsunami in 2011, has released once radioactive water into nature after a years-long battle with fishermen, who feared it could destroy their livelihood."
Following the initial dump, it was revealed that TEPCO would continue dumping approximately 100 to 200 tons of the filtered radioactive groundwater into the ocean daily. However, the issue of waste dumping has once again made it into the spotlight as TEPCO aims to get official approval from authorities to dump waste with traceable amounts of tritium.

The Associated Press reports that with concerns rising from the fact that tritium cannot be removed from the waste water, the dumping of Fukushima waste water into the ocean by TEPCO is in jeopardy. Robert Daguillard, a spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is one such person speaking out about the possible concerns associated with the release of water containing tritium into the Pacific. Daguillard notes that "any" exposure to tritium could have adverse health effects.

"Any exposure to tritium radiation could pose some health risk. This risk increases with prolonged exposure, and health risks include increased occurrence of cancer."
Children were identified as being most susceptible to the tritium, but TEPCO scientists, and many others in the power industry, believe the concerns are being blown out of proportion. Rosa Yang, a nuclear expert from California, says all the unrest is unnecessary and that officials from TEPCO should simply stand before the public and drink water from the tanks of filtered waste water to prove its safety.

Workers remove nuclear fuel rods from a pool at No. 4 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. (Photo by Tokyo Electric Power Co via Getty Images)

While many are debating whether the release of the previously radioactive waste into the ocean should be allowed, those close to TEPCO say that it doesn't really matter what the public thinks as the water must be released. The group has also ensured that the amount of tritium in the water will be "well below the global standard allowed for tritium in the water." Other supporters of the release point out that tritium is naturally occurring in the water from the sun and is already being released in low quantities from nuclear plants across the globe.

The Japan Times reveals that TEPCO also has plans for "highly radioactive waste" that is being held at the facility. The company is looking to possibly building a disposal facility under the seabed to deal with waste that cannot be dumped directly into the ocean.

What do you think about Japan dumping "filtered" nuclear waste into the Pacific Ocean?

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