Japan raises anxiety levels of neighbours
Japan is all set to embrace an international controversy over the release of more than 1 million tonnes of contaminated water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear station into the sea
Japan is all set to embrace an international controversy over the release of more than 1 million tonnes of contaminated water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear station into the sea. The move has been strongly opposed by its neighbours, more than any by China, Japan's arch rival in the region. The first release of water will take place in about two years, giving plant operator Tokyo Electric Power time to begin filtering the water to remove harmful isotopes, build infrastructure and acquire regulatory approval.
Japan has argued the water release is necessary to press ahead with the complex decommissioning of the plant after it was crippled by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, pointing out that similarly filtered water is routinely released from nuclear plants around the world. The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power [TEPCO] plans to filter the contaminated water to remove isotopes, leaving only tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen hard to separate from water. Tepco will then dilute the water until tritium levels fall below regulatory limits, before pumping it into the ocean. Tritium is considered to be relatively harmless because it does not emit enough energy to penetrate human skin. Other nuclear plants around the world routinely pump water with low levels of the isotope into the ocean.
Contrary to China's claims, there is a consensus among scientists that the impact on health will be minuscule. The decision comes about three months ahead of the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games, with some events to be held as close as 60 km (35 miles) to the wrecked plant. Of course, world will demand more negotiations on the issue as the action is being termed by some as extremely irresponsible that would seriously damage international public health and safety, and the vital interests of people in neighbouring countries. South Korea expressed serious concerns that the decision could bring a direct and indirect impact on the safety of its people and surrounding environment adding it would step up its own radiological measuring and monitoring. Taiwan has also expressed concern.
There are reports which support the arguments raised by the neighbours of Japan that it could be cancerous at least if any. Some experts are worried about other contaminants. The water currently contains significant amounts of harmful isotopes despite years of treatment, according to TEPCO. These other contaminants are all of greater health risk than tritium and accumulate more readily in seafood and sea floor sediments. Local fishing communities say the water's release will undo years of hard work to rebuild consumer confidence in their seafood. The announcement drew swift condemnation from environmental groups as well.
Greenpeace Japan said it "strongly condemned" the water's release, which "completely disregards the human rights and interests of the people in Fukushima, wider Japan and the Asia-Pacific region". It will be better if Japan holds it proposal much longer, at least till all doubts are eliminated and it is scientifically proved that the waste waters will not contaminate or endanger the environs in any form. This move anyway will trigger the usefulness of nuclear reactors once again. Man's quest for cheaper alternatives would always bring up such questions at a later time. On the one hand the ecosystems are being destroyed by the processes of development and so called civilization threatening the future of the planet.