Japan will discharge into the sea, after treatment, more than a million tonnes of water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant, the Japanese government announced on Tuesday (April 13), despite the opposition of certain neighboring countries, including the China, and local fishing communities.
This decision ends seven years of debates on how to get rid of water from rain, groundwater or injections needed to cool the cores of nuclear reactors that melted after the gigantic tsunami of March 11, 2011. About 1.25 million tonnes of contaminated water are currently stored in more than a thousand cisterns near the crashed power plant ten years ago in northeastern Japan.
→ STORY. Fukushima, an endless rescue
The water will be rejected “When we are sure that it is at a level (of radioactive substances, Editor’s note) significantly below safety standards “Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Tuesday, adding that the Japanese government would take ” measurements “ to prevent this from damaging the reputation of the region.
Water accumulates quickly
A decision was all the more urgent as the water accumulates rapidly: in 2020, the site generated around 140 cubic meters of contaminated water every day. The limits of on-site storage capacity could be reached as early as fall 2022, according to Tepco, the plant operator.
The water intended to be released in this operation, which should not start for two years and could take decades, has been filtered several times to be free of most of its radioactive substances (radionuclides), but not tritium, which cannot be eliminated with current techniques.
In early 2020, experts commissioned by the government recommended dumping at sea, a practice that already exists in Japan and abroad on active nuclear installations. “There is a consensus among scientists that the impact on health (from a rejection of tritiated water at sea, editor’s note) is tiny Michiaki Kai, professor and radiation risk expert at Oita Health Sciences University (southwestern Japan) told AFP.
Option highly contested by fishermen and farmers
This option, favored to the detriment of other scenarios, such as evaporation in the air or sustainable storage, is highly contested by the fishermen and farmers of Fukushima who fear that this will further affect the image of their products with consumers. .
→ READ. Fukushima oscillates between green and nuclear
The government “Told us that he would not reject the water (at the sea, editor’s note) without the support of fishermen Kanji Tachiya, head of a local fishing cooperative in Fukushima, said on Tuesday, just before the decision was announced. “Now they are coming back to it and telling us that they are going to reject the water, it is incomprehensible”, he added.