To the disgust of local residents, the firm assigned to clean up the waste from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster has decided that the radioactive waste it collected could be dumped into the Pacific Ocean.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) chairman Takashi Kawamura told foreign media that almost 777,000 tons of water tainted with tritium, a radioactive type of hydrogen that is known to be difficult to filter out, will be released into the sea.
Around 580 barrels of the collected radioactive water previously used to cool the nuclear plant’s damaged reactors are set to be disposed of, the Independent reported.
Kawamura, however, was quoted by Japan Times saying that the firm will still need the government’s approval before they can proceed with the release of toxic water.
“We cannot keep going if we do not have the support of the state,” Kawamura was quoted as saying.
Nuclear Regulation Authority chairman Shunichi Tanaka highly supports the idea and even blasted Tepco for not being decisive enough to push for it.
“An operator lacking the will to take the initiative does not have the right to resume operation of nuclear reactors,” he said.
Residents have denounced the plan, with the local fishermen expressing fears toward the negative implications it poses on their livelihood.
“Releasing (tritium) into the sea will create a new wave of unfounded rumors, making our efforts all for naught,” local fishermen’s cooperative leader Kanji Tachiya said.
Those in favor of the decision stated that tritium poses very little danger to humans unless the exposure is significantly high.
NRA chairman Tanaka claims that the chemical is “so weak in its radioactivity it won’t penetrate plastic wrapping”.
In an interview with the Guardian, University of Southampton oceanographer Simon Boxall said that the effect will be minor.
“In the broad scale of things, if they do end up putting the material in the Pacific, it will have minimal effect on an ocean basin scale,” Boxall said.
However, environmental activists are concerned that allowing such action today may set a dangerous precedent.
“They say that it will be safe because the ocean is large so it will be diluted, but that sets a precedent that can be copied, essentially permitting anyone to dump nuclear waste into our seas,” Aileen Mioko-Smith of Green Action Japan said.