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Japan will pour radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean next year

The plan to discharge radioactive waste water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea can become a reality after being approved by Japanese authorities.

Fukushima nuclear power plant.  Photo: AP

Fukushima nuclear power plant. Image: AP

The proposal to send treated wastewater from the nuclear plant to the Pacific Ocean made great progress on April 18, after the Japanese Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRA) decided to accept public comments on the plan. plan within a month. The NRA will officially approve the project in 2023 after the public comment period ends on June 18. If approved, the plant operator TEPCO hopes to be able to start discharging treated radioactive water into the sea from next spring.

It has been 11 years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster that occurred on March 11, 2011. The incident began when a magnitude 9 earthquake caused a tsunami to hit the east coast of Japan. The tsunami hit the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, causing power outages in three reactor cores. With no power to run the cooling equipment, the three cores of the furnace melted, releasing large amounts of radiation into the surroundings. Among the many problems left over from the disaster, TEPCO had to deal with hundreds of tanks containing more than 1.25 million tons of contaminated water used to cool the reactor during the accident.

The plan to release contaminated water into the sea is controversial both locally and internationally, raising concerns about the impact on ecosystems and human health. However, some reviews and studies point to a safe plan. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reviewed the proposal earlier this year and concluded that Japan had treated the wastewater well in April.

The contaminated water is treated to remove the vast majority of radioactive elements, leaving only tritium, one of two radioactive isotopes of hydrogen. Although tritium is toxic, it still exists in nature and experts say the amount of tritium in the environment will be extremely small due to mixing with sea water.

A study published earlier this year modeled how radioactive water would mix into oceans around the world and found the contaminants would cover nearly the entire North Pacific after about 1,200 days, spreading as far as the North American coast to the east and Australia to the south. By day 3,600, the pollutant will have covered most of the Pacific Ocean. The researchers suggest that traces of tritium could still be found in the ocean after 40 years, but the concentrations would be extremely small.

An Khang (According to IFL Science)

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