Today, eight years later, Fukushima has more than a million tons of contaminated water. It comes from two main sources.
In 2011, Japan was hit by the most potent earthquake in the history of the nation with a magnitude 9. This earthquake caused a tsunami with waves up to 133 feet height.
The disaster also led to three nuclear metldowns and three hydrogen explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
Namely, tsunami overheated the reactor cores and melted them so the workers injected water into the cores in order to cool them down.
And, during the accident, groundwater also collected in beneath the reactors and got mixed with radioactive materials.
What Is Happening with the Contaminated Water?
The polluted water is now kept in 1000 sealed tanks; however, it’s still piling up. The plant emphasizes that there’s sufficient space to maintain the liquid until the summer of 2022; but, after that, there will be no space.
At a briefing in Tokyo, the environment minister of Japan, Yoshiaki Harada said that after the year of 2022, the sole option will be to drain the water into the sea.
But, the government is still waiting on a verdict from a team of experts before they bring a decision about what they’ll do with the water.
In the meantime, Greenpeace stated that the only environmentally acceptable choice is to continue the storing and filtration for contaminants. However, this approach would require costly processes of filtration and more tanks.
Cleanup Costs Are too High
Two events have ever been designated as level 7 nuclear accidents by the IAEA, i.e., Fukushima and Chernobyl.
Most of the radiation released during the Fukushima disaster ended up in the Pacific Ocean and the meltdown led to the evacuation of more than 20,000 individuals living nearby, 43,000 of whom haven’t still returned.
According to the Japan Center for Economic Research, cleanup costs of the disaster could be around $660 billion.
After the tsunami, the plant workers in Fukushima made storage tanks to keep the polluted water which was used for the cooling of the reactors. However, they also needed to tackle the radioactive groundwater.
Consequently, the crew had even more dirty water to store and treat than they’ve expected.
The plant workers needed to use zeolite to cleanse the water. In 2013, they filtered it for strontium, another toxic, radioactive substance. However, it was difficult to filter out tritium, an isotope which binds easily to water.
The Sea Is not a Trashcan
Unfortunately, back in 2016, the ministry of Japan concluded that none of the methods available for the removal of tritium would work on the site of Fukushima. But, Greenpeace said that the government was actually set back by the price of the effective methods.
Namely, a system from a company called Kurion offered a method that would have cost around $1 billion, plus several hundred millions to operate on a yearly basis.
Water with tritium isn’t very harmful to humans and dumping water contaminated with it in the oceans is frequently done by coastal nuclear plants. However, environmentalists point out that this can endanger the marine species and the income of people who live nearby.
Last year, Tokyo Electric Power Company which operates with Fukushima stated that around 80 percent of the treated water still had levels of radiation higher than the standard of the government for ocean dumping.
So, if this water is to be dumped into the ocean, it would travel to the shores of South Korea and pollute local seafood.
For Jan Hakervamp, nuclear energy expert at Greenpeace, the sea isn’t a garbage dump and it’s the home of people and creatures and we need to protect it.