An immense amount of accumulation of contaminated water is being stored at the Fukushima power plant in Japan. Now, the government has to decide what to do with everything. A panel of experts advised Japanese officials to release treated radioactive water in the air or in the ocean, preferably the latter.

The committee said:

Compared to evaporation, ocean release can be done more safely.

This advice comes after three years of serious consideration. The space on the site where the water is housed in hundreds of tanks is running out. More are being built, but they are even expected to be filled by the end of 2022. It has caused a growing sense of urgency on the matter. The emeritus professor at Nagoya University, Ichiro Yamamoto, who is the head of the committee’s experts, still needs to confirm this recommendation and present it to the government.

Fukushima radioactive water is likely to be released in the Pacific Ocean
Credit: AP

In 2011, the nuclear plant operated by TEPCO collapsed when a tsunami caused by an earthquake hit it. Since then, they have been collecting water flowing through the site; that water is used to cool the tanks, as well as rain and groundwater that seeps into the plant every day.

Tokyo Electric puts it through the water to eliminate an extensive filtration process that contains 62 radioactive ingredients. However, the company admitted in 2018 that its filtration system has not been able to remove all radioactive particles from water. Tritium, a hydrogen isotope that is more difficult to separate from water, remains. They say that tritium is relatively harmless and only dangerous in huge quantities.

Jim Smith, professor of environmental sciences at the University of Portsmouth, told Newsweek:

As long as water contaminated with tritium is properly diluted in seawater, it will not present a risk of significant accumulation in marine organisms. Tritium is a very weak emitter of beta radiation and will take extremely high concentrations to cause possible effects on the health of marine organisms or people. Other countries around the world, including the United Kingdom and France, have released large amounts of tritium into the marine system in the past without evidence of significant environmental impacts.

Officials will consult with fishermen and local authorities. Many activists, residents, farmers and fishermen are worried and fiercely oppose the release of water in the sea. No one knows when the decision will be made. However, it is expected that there will be no delicate problems on this issue before Tokyo hosts the Olympic Games this summer.