Fukushima nuclear power plant: Tritium water should enter the sea through a 1 km long tunnel

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The Japanese nuclear power plant operator Tepco has announced plans to dispose of water that was polluted as a result of the disaster at its Fukushima Daiichi site in March 2011. 1.27 million tons of water, with which the molten fuel rods have been cooled and processed since the worst-case scenario, are to be channeled into the sea through a 1 km long submarine tunnel. In South Korea there is renewed protest against the plan to dispose of the water in the ocean.

In April the Japanese government decided that the water, which is currently stored in tanks on the site of the damaged nuclear power plant, should be drained into the sea. Tepco is now planning (PDF) to modify the protective wall to the sea in the north so that water can flow in to dilute it. So that this water cannot mix with what is being drained, it should first flow through a one-kilometer tunnel and then into the sea.

The plan also provides for measuring points that will be used to determine the level of radionuclides in various marine zones up to a distance of 20 km from the nuclear power plant. In addition to tritium, this includes cesium 134 and 137 and iodine 129. The measurement results are intended to demonstrate that the introduction of the treated water does not significantly increase tritium in fish than the tritium already contained in the ocean.

Work on the disposal is to begin in the fourth quarter of this year, from the beginning of 2022 the tritium water is to be diluted and drained from spring 2023. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, where core meltdowns occurred after the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, continues to need a lot of water to cool the molten fuel. Although it is cleaned and filtered, the process called Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) cannot remove any tritium, which is a by-product of nuclear fission. The water is currently stored on the nuclear power plant site. Space for tanks is becoming scarce, and it will also be needed to store the fuel, the recovery of which is to begin in about two years.

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In April of this year, the neighboring states of China and South Korea had already criticized the Japanese plans and called for broad negotiations. The South Korean government has now expressed “deep regret” that Tokyo is pushing the plan forward without having spoken to South Korea beforehand and obtained its approval. Japan should stop its plan immediately, reports the South Korean broadcaster KBS.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant with its six reactor blocks before the disaster. It is about 250 km from Tokyo as the crow flies. All six blocks are based on the boiling water reactor series BWR 3 to BWR 5 from the US company General Electric; they were built between 1971 and 1979. Unit 1 was originally supposed to be shut down at the end of March 2011, but the Japanese authorities approved a ten-year extension in February 2011.
(Image: dpa)

Possibly against this background, but above all because of concerns about the domestic fisheries, Tepco is also planning an extensive awareness-raising campaign. In addition to “constant dialogues” with those affected and consumers, there should be broad information for and in the media as well as websites about water disposal in different languages. There should be efforts to “stimulate national consumption of fishery products”, says the Tepco planning. To this end, there should be promotional events at trade fairs and in restaurants, among other things. If the introduction of the tritium water causes damage, it should be replaced immediately and without further ado.


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