An Act Of Nuclear Terrorism?
The Government of Japan has decided to start releasing treated radioactive water from the wrecked Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant into the Pacific Ocean in two years. The entire procedure involved to release the water will begin in about two years, the Government said in a statement, adding that it is expected to take decades! Although the Government has pledged to make the water safe before release, but the plan itself has drawn swift condemnation from China, South Korea, even Taiwan, as well as Environmental Groups, and is very likely to anger the Fishing Industry. As expected, such a decision has triggered a fresh controversy.
Tokyo Electric Power, the operator of the plant, and the Government of Japan have claimed that the water would be purified and released into the sea only after the radioactivity level drops below dangerous levels. According to Tokyo, the process to release water, used to cool nuclear fuel, into the ocean will begin in 2023, and it will take decades to complete the process. Meanwhile, the local fishing community, as well as China and South Korea, have condemned Japan’s decision.
A hydrogen explosion, due to the 2011 earthquake and Tsunami, had destroyed three nuclear reactors of the plant. Excessive heat created pressure inside the reactor, which melted the interior and, in the process, disrupted the cooling process. Later, Japan used around one million tonnes of water to cool these reactors again.
Currently, a purification process is going on to remove the radioactive waste from the water. Meanwhile, Tokyo Electric Power has said that the water currently contains significant amounts of harmful isotopes, despite years of treatment. Hence, the company plans further filtration to leave only Tritium or Hydrogen-3, a radioactive isotope of Hydrogen that is hard to separate from water. At the same time, Tokyo Electric Power has admitted that it does not have the technology to remove few harmful substances from the water, completely. Also, there is a lack of space or tank to store this huge amount of water. The plant operator has already stored radioactive water in 1000 tanks. According to Tokyo Electric Power, 500 Olympic swimming pools can be easily filled with this amount of water!
Several environmental organisations have been critical of Japan’s decision since the beginning of this water purification process. Now, the fishermen have claimed that it would be difficult for them to export fishes to foreign countries. Several countries had already imposed a ban on import of seafood from Japan’s northeast coast. Neighbours, too, have objected to Tokyo’s decision, with China requesting Japan to act responsibly. In a statement, the Foreign Ministry of China mentioned: “As a close neighbour and stakeholder, the Chinese side expresses grave concern over this. The Fukushima nuclear accident is one of the most serious in world history. The leak of large amounts of radioactive materials has had far-reaching implications on the marine environment, food safety and human health.” Greenpeace Japan, too, has “strongly condemned” the decision.
A scientific American article had reported in 2014 that when ingested Tritium could raise cancer risks. Some experts are worried about other contaminants. “My concern is about non-Tritium radioactive contaminants that still remain in the tanks at high levels,” stressed Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. He added: “These other contaminants are all of greater health risk than Tritium and accumulate more readily in seafood and sea floor sediments.” Buesseler issued the statement after studying the waters around Fukushima.
Meanwhile, Japan has argued that the amount of radioactive materials in the wastewater, to be released into the Pacific Ocean, would be lower than the danger level. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), too, has backed Japan’s claim. According to the IAEA, it will be just like wastewater emitted from factories across the globe. However, scientists have warned that radioactive substances in water will be harmful to human bodies, if they are present in large quantities.
Now, does it seem that Japan has erased the impact of nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively, from its memory?
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