Environment

Millions of tons of nuclear wastewater from Fukushima will be dumped into the sea

Japan’s government announced on Tuesday (April 13) that it will dump more than a million tons of contaminated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean, beginning in two years.

Roughly 1.25 million tons (1.13 million metric tons) of water have accumulated around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan since 2011, after a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami devastated the region. The twin disasters killed nearly 20,000 people, according to NPR, and caused meltdowns in three of the plant’s six reactors, triggering the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

To keep the remaining reactor cores from melting, officials with the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) have been pumping nearly 200 tons (180 metric tons) of cooling water through the site every day. That contaminated wastewater is stored in more than 1,000 enormous tanks on site and automatically filtered to remove most of the radioactive material, except for tritium — a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that is considered hazardous to human health in large amounts.

Now, 10 years after the disaster, TEPCO is running out of room to store the wastewater. The disposal plan, which was approved in a government cabinet meeting on Tuesday, will see the wastewater gradually discharged into the Pacific Ocean, most likely over the course of several decades.

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