The water was used, among other things, to cool the reactors of the nuclear power plant when it was hit by a severe earthquake and a tsunami in 2011. And still extra water is used for this.
The contaminated cooling water, as well as contaminated ground and rainwater, is currently contained in enormous storage tanks. There are now more than a thousand and it is expected that in the course of next year there will not be enough space to accommodate more tanks. Every day about 140 cubic meters of radioactive water is added.
With the current amount of polluted water, about 500 swimming pools of 50 by 25 meters can be filled by comparison. The annual cost of water storage is estimated at around 100 billion yen. That is converted more than 766 million euros.
Getting rid of the water is a headache for the Japanese government. For a long time, thought has been given to pumping the water into the sea. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government has now made a decision.
The water will probably be discharged in two years at the earliest. The entire process may take decades. The intention is that the polluted water is first filtered and diluted. Japan ensures that the discharge of the water is safe. The International Atomic Energy Agency also feels the same way.
Michiaki Kai, a radiation expert from Japan’s University in Oita, tells AFP news agency that there is a consensus among scientists that “the impact on health is miniscule.” But according to him, “the risk cannot be said to be nil, causing controversy.”
China and South Korea have already expressed concerns about the plan. Japanese fishermen are not keen on it either. They fear that this measure could turn out badly for their profession. For example, after the nuclear disaster, South Korea halted the import of fish from the area near Fukushima. “We were told they would not discharge the water into the sea without the support of the fishermen,” Kanji Tachiya said on behalf of the local fishery. According to him, that promise has been broken by the government.
The Tokyo decision “may directly and indirectly affect the security of our people and the environment,” said a South Korean Foreign Ministry official. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs speaks of an “extremely irresponsible” decision. According to a spokesman, China has urged Japan to “solve the waste water discharge problem from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in a sensible and responsible manner.”
Greenpeace strongly opposes the decision. “With this decision, the human rights and interests of the people in Fukushima, the rest of Japan and the Asia-Pacific region are completely ignored,” the environmental organization said.
Japan was hit by a massive earthquake and a tsunami on March 11, 2011. About 100,000 people fled and nearly 19,000 were killed. As a result of the natural disaster, the nuclear power plant in Fukushima was damaged. It was the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.