Why Japan is releasing Fukushima water into Pacific? Explained

South Korean protesters on Saturday demanded government interference to avoid a ‘possible looming disaster’ from Japan’s release of over one million metric tons of treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, according to a report published by the news agency Reuters. 

Japan began dumping the water from the plant north of Tokyo into the sea on Thursday despite objections both at home and abroad from fishing communities and others worried about the environmental impact.

The Korean Radiation Watch group organized a rally to protest against Japan’s decision to release treated radioactive water. More than 50,000 people joined the demonstration, the organizers said. 

Choi Kyoungsook, the Korean Radiation Watch group member said, “We will not be immediately seeing disasters like detecting radioactive materials in seafood but it seems inevitable that this discharge would pose a risk to the local fishing industry and the government needs to come up with solutions.”

The reason behind Japan releasing Fukushima water

Japan and scientific organizations had said that the water, distilled after being contaminated by contact with fuel rods when the reactor was destroyed in a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, is now safe. 

A Reuters report said that Tokyo Electric Power has been filtering the water to remove isotopes, leaving only tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that is hard to separate.

According to Kyodo News, Japan’s fisheries agency also clarified that fish tested in waters around the plant did not contain detectable levels of tritium. However, South Korea said it sees no scientific problems with the water release but environmental activists argue that all possible impacts have not been studied.

Water containing tritium is routinely released from nuclear plants around the world, and regulatory authorities support dealing with the Fukushima water in this way, Reuters reported. 

In 2014, a Scientific Americal article stated that tritium is considered to be relatively harmless because its radiation is not energetic enough to penetrate human skin, but when ingested at levels above those in the released water it can raise cancer risks. 

The water disposal process will take decades to complete alongside the planned decommissioning of the plant.


(With Reuters inputs)

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Updated: 27 Aug 2023, 10:15 AM IST

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