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The Grizzly Gazette

The Grizzly Gazette

Fukushima’s Dirty Water

Photo Credit: AP Images

On August 24, 2023, Japan began releasing radioactive wastewater from its Fukushima Nuclear Plant into the Pacific Ocean. The Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant began construction in 1967 and was first commissioned in 1971. It was created as the coal mining industry declined and was one of the 25 most powerful nuclear power stations in the world.

On March 11, 2011, a powerful earthquake and tsunami hit Japan and nuclear plants lost power. With no power, the cooling systems failed, leading to overheating.

Power plant company TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) has been pumping in water to cool down the reactors’ fuel rods ever since. This accumulated wastewater every day, stored in large tanks.

12 years after that catastrophic disaster, Japan finally decided that all this water needed to be released somewhere, so they chose the ocean.

1.34 million metric tons of treated and diluted wastewater is scheduled to be released into the Pacific Ocean over the span of about 30 years.

Japan and its supporters argue that the release of treated wastewater is safe and the most feasible way to handle it. The radioactive water is “treated by what’s called an Advanced Liquid Processing System, which can reduce the amounts of more than 60 selected radionuclides to government-set releasable levels, except for tritium, which officials say is safe for humans if consumed in small amounts,” said Journalist from AP News Mari Yamaguchi.

Because tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, occurs naturally in the environment, small doses are considered harmless. However, it does become dangerous if it is consumed in high concentrations.

Most scientists support this, claiming that the treated water is safe enough to be released slowly and not dangerous enough to harm humans.

Environmental activists are very concerned about the potential negative impact and long-term effects the wastewater has on marine life. 

Korean Environmental Activist Park Jong-Kwon said, “I’m furious about [Japan’s] sudden announcement and it’s baffling. I’m even more angry about our president, Yoon Suk Yeol, who has been silent about this.” Park also expressed his fears for the future. “I live down by the sea so I like fish. However, I will reduce the number of fish I eat, but I’m more worried about whether we should really let our children eat seafood.”

Many countries are divided about the effects of the wastewater in the ocean. The United States and Taiwan support Japan, agreeing that the discharge has low risks. However, this release has generated many protests from various different countries. China declared a ban against Japan’s aquatic products, including seafood, seaweed, and even sea salt.

China’s Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Shu Jueting called the release “extremely selfish and irresponsible” and said it would “cause damage and harm to the global marine environment that can not be predicted.”

Other countries have also announced their own bans, such as South Korea, Macau, and Hong Kong.

Despite all the controversy, Japan has started releasing the wastewater. So far, no measurable impact on the environment has been observed, but only time will tell if this action will result in damage to the ocean and sea life, as well as humans.


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