The Japanese Government recently approved a plan to release more than 1 million tonnes of treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. In 2011, there occurred a nuclear disaster in the plant due an earthquake and tsunami. It was the most severe Nuclear accident that was classified as Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.
Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc (Tepco) will begun pumping out water in about two years after treatment in a process that will take decades to complete.Tepco has been struggling with the build-up of contaminated water since bringing three reactors under control after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami knocked out electricity and cooling. The company has been using a makeshift system of pumps and piping to inject water into damaged reactor vessels to keep melted uranium fuel rods cool.
The water is contaminated as it comes in contact with the fuel before leaking into damaged basements and tunnels, where it mixes with groundwater that flows through the site from hills above. The combination results in excess contaminated water that is pumped out and treated before being stored in huge tanks crowding the site.Those tanks now hold about 1.3 million tonnes of radioactive water, enough for about 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Efforts to tackle the problem have included building an “ice wall” around the damaged reactors and wells to draw groundwater away before it reaches the reactors. These measures have slowed, but not halted, the buildup of contaminated water.Over the years, Tepco has also battled leaks, spills, malfunctioning equipment and safety breaches, hindering cleanup efforts expected to run for decades.
Water containing tritium is routinely released from nuclear plants around the world and releasing the Fukushima water to the ocean is supported by regulatory authorities.Tritium is considered to be relatively harmless because it does not emit enough energy to penetrate human skin. But when ingested it can raise cancer risks, a Scientific American article said in 2014.The first water release is not expected for about two years, time Tepco will use to begin filtering the water, building infrastructure and acquiring regulatory approval.
Until then, the buildup of contaminated water will continue, with annual costs of water storage estimated at about 100 billion yen ($912.66 million).Once begun, the water disposal will take decades to complete, with a rolling filtering and dilution process, alongside the planned decommissioning of the plant.