Japan could start dumping radioactive water from Fukushima into the Pacific by next spring

The plan to dump radioactive wastewater from the ruins of the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean looks more likely than ever after receiving preliminary approval from Japan’s nuclear regulator.

The proposal to dump the nuclear plant’s treated wastewater into the Pacific, approved as a bill by the Japanese cabinet in August last year, took another big step forward on Wednesday. following a decision by Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) to allow a month-long public comment period on the plan. The NRA will give official approval of the plan to move forward next year after the public comment period ends on June 18.

If it gets the final green light, which many are hoping for, power plant operator TEPCO hopes to begin releasing the site’s irradiated water after treatment into the ocean as early as spring 2023.

It has been more than 11 years since fukushima nuclear disaster struck on March 11, 2011, in what became one of the worst nuclear accidents in history. It started when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami that crashed into the east coast of Japan. Tsunami waves crashed into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, cutting power to three reactor cores. Without power for the coolers, the three cores merged, sending significant amounts of radiation into the surrounding environment.

Among the many problems left by the disaster, TEPCO has been saddled with hundreds of tanks containing more than 1.25 million tons of contaminated water used to cool reactors during the incident.

The plan to discharge the polluted water into the sea has been controversial both for the local population and for some parts of the international communitygenerating fears about the impact it can have on ecosystems and human health.

However, a number of reviews and studies have suggested that the plan is safe. The International Atomic Energy Agency reviewed the proposal earlier this year and concluded in April that Japan has made good progress with its planned water discharge, but still wanted to see more information before it is implemented.

The contaminated water is treated to remove the vast majority of radioactive elements, leaving behind tritium, one of two radioactive versions of hydrogen. While tritium is toxic, it occurs naturally and experts say the amount in the environment will be negligible when it is diluted throughout the ocean. It is only considered one of the least harmful radionuclides; it’s so harmless, in fact, it’s what you put in wristwatches to make them glow in the dark.

A paper earlier this year modeling how radioactive water would diffuse through the world’s oceans found that contaminants will cover nearly the entire North Pacific region after about 1,200 days, reaching as far east as the North American coast. and Australia to the south. . By day 3600, pollutants will cover almost the entire Pacific Ocean. Tritium is believed to be traceable in the ocean for up to 40 years, but it will be extremely diluted in the midst of the vast Pacific Ocean.

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