Japanese Company To Dump 777,000 Tons Of Radioactive Waste Into The Ocean
Japan is still dealing with the devastating effects of a tsunami which hit the island nation in 2011. Not only did it cause nearly 16,000 deaths and unimaginable damage, it also resulted in the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant meltdown.
The tsunami disabled the emergency generators, which meant the cooling systems weren't active when the reactors were shut down. It was the biggest nuclear incident since the devastating Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
But with the clean-up operation continuing to this day, the Japan Times has reported that the head of the mission has decided to dump nearly 600 tanks, containing about 777,000 tons of radioactive water, into the ocean.
It's understood that the water contains a radioactive form of hydrogen called tritium. That isotope is used in nuclear weapons, self-powered lighting and chemistry.
Because the systems aren't working to keep the reactors cool, tons of water are pumped through them to stop them from overheating. As a result, the water becomes radioactive and needs to be stored away.
Despite reported outrage from locals, chairman of the Tokyo Electric Power Company, Takashi Kawamura has said: "The decision has already been made." He claims that it is essential because they are running out of space to store the hundreds of barrels, according to the Japan Times.
Luckily, tritium isn't dangerous to human health unless it's ingested in large amounts, and it will be heavily diluted once in the ocean.
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The Nuclear Regulation Authority chief Shunichi Tanaka has previously said the tritium is, 'so weak in its radioactivity it won't penetrate plastic wrapping'.
Takashi Kawamura. Credit: PA
While the local outrage is understood, this is far from the first time nuclear waste has been dumped into the ocean. Scientist Ken Buesseler told the Guardian: "I would think more has been put into the Irish Sea [from the UK's Sellafield plant] than would ever be released off Japan."
Oceanographer Simon Boxall adds: "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.
"In an ideal world, we wouldn't be in this situation. But the question is, what is the safest way forward? In many ways, this is a pragmatic solution."
Japan is one of 14 countries who have dumped radioactive waste into the ocean. The USSR, between 1959 and 1992 discarded the most amount of waste, which was mainly in the Arctic Ocean. The UK is second on the list, with Switzerland and America far behind in third and fourth. The USA dumped 90,000 containers of waste between 1946 and 1970.
Featured Image Credit: PA