JAPAN’S nuclear regulator has approved plans by the operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant to release its treated radioactive wastewater into the sea next year.
It said the methods outlined in the plan are safe and that risks to the environment are minimal.
The plan was submitted by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) in December based on the government’s decision last year to release the wastewater as a necessary step for the ongoing plant clean-up and decommission.
Japan nuclear authority chairman Toyoshi Fuketa said the plan is made conservatively so the radiation impact on the environment could still be below the legal limit in case of any conceivable risks.
A massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011 destroyed the Fukushima plant’s cooling systems, causing the meltdown of three reactors and the release of large amounts of radiation.
Water that has been used to cool the three damaged reactor cores, which remain highly radioactive, has since leaked but was collected and stored in tanks.
There is still concern in the community and neighbouring countries about the potential health hazards of the release of the wastewater that includes tritium – a by-product of nuclear power production and a possible carcinogen at high levels.
The government and Tepco say more than 60 isotopes selected for treatment can be lowered to meet safety standards, except for tritium, but that it is safe if diluted.
Scientists say the impact of long term low-dose exposure is unknown, and that tritium can have a bugger impact on humans when consumed in fish than in water.
CREDIT: Craig Cairns