The Japanese government has made its intention known to discharge the radioactive contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, sparking a lot of controversy. On March 11, 2011, an earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan caused a radioactive leak at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima. After the accident, Japan built an underground water barrier to prevent groundwater from passing through the contaminated nuclear power plant and flowing into the sea. As this time, the high-concentration cesium contaminated water inside the nuclear power plant was stored in the Fukushima contaminated water storage tank through the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS). Despite Japan is repeated emphasis on safety, claiming that it is safe to discard the water that was diluted several times, into the ocean, the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), a regional cooperation organization in eleven neighboring countries and Oceania, and even Japanese fishermen and residents oppose Japan’s discharge of the contaminated water. A CBT reporter met with Lee Jeong-yoon, CEO of Nuclear Safety and Future, to find out what aspects are dangerous and the safety measurements that Japan claims to be meaningful.
Q1. Fukushima contaminated water is extremely controversial, and Japan says Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) will release the contaminated water. Please tell readers how it will affect not only Japan but also neighboring foreign countries if TEPCO releases the contaminated water.
There are various types of nuclei, such as cesium, strontium, and plutonium, and each has a fixed half-life in which radioactive intensity is reduced in half over a certain period of time. Therefore, it is only halved over time. In other words, radiation intensity can only be weakened by time. However, the half-life can take seconds, hours, or billions of years. The nuclides listed above are very harmful to the human body, but they have a half-life spanning from 30 years, up to 24,000 years. Therefore, when these nuclides are released into the sea, they continue to emit radiation and harm the ecological environment indefinitely. The Fukushima nuclear power plant is an area where huge amount of radioactivity has been discharged to the sea due to accidents so far. Even now, contaminated fish are being caught far exceeding the allowable limits in areas hundreds of kilometers away. However, there is no objectively verified comprehensive ecological environmental impact analysis on this. If we release additional contaminated water here, it will have an additional impact. Therefore, it is necessary to properly analyze the total amount of radioactive emissions to the surrounding ecosystem, and how the environmental ecosystem has been affected so far, to see the effects of additional radiation emissions. In addition, everyone should oppose the diluting and releasing on the basis of simple radioactive concentration. Just considering it as having little affect in such small amounts of release without proper assessment of the impact on the food chain and ultimately on human health is not sensible at all.
Q2. The Japanese government continues to emphasize the safety of the contaminated water, but is there really no problem if it actually treats radioactive isotopes with the ALPS? If there is a problem, please tell readers which part is the problem.
Theoretically, there is no problem with ALPS, but practically there is a problem. The facility was put into operation in 2013, but the performance was substandard, so the Japanese government has been supplementing it until now. Recently, most of the filters have been operated with holes, and therefore, two-thirds of the 1.33 million tons of contaminated water currently stored and treated by ALPS are still exceeding limits of release. They say it is okay to recycle the water several times until the concentration is low enough. On the one hand, it can be concluded that there is no problem if they just dilute it and release it based on concentration. There may be no difference if they just send it out to sea. Especially when there is a typhoon, it will be diluted well in the sea. On the other hand, however, the essence is that the total amount of radiation emitted is important. Also, considering that there are many problems that we may not even be aware of during the operation of the facility, and the challenge of who can cross-check the true data remains. Furthermore, if we look at the problem of bio-accumulation, simply diluting radiation cannot be a solution.
Q3. An inspection team was dispatched from Korea in May with the purpose to check the safety of the contaminated water. In your opinion, would it be possible for them to adequately check the safety of discharging contaminated water?
What is wrong with it theoretically? The inspectors should first be able to explain the problem of two-thirds of the 1.33 million tons of contaminated water stored in the tank exceeding the releasing limits. In order to properly assess the environmental impact, all data on the total amount of radioactive emissions that have so far been released into the air, rivers, rain, groundwater, and ocean must be obtained. Also, they need to get all the meaningful sampling data from the contaminated area. Then, if a comprehensive ecological environmental impact assessment is not carried out properly, we will miss the real effect of the radiation impact on the eco-systems. In other words, “No objection” itself may play a role in unintentionally helping Japan’s misguided pollution emission logic. How can we be unashamed of our actions in the future? I am really worried about being party to this disaster which can be seen as a serious environmental crime in Human history.
By Kim Si-eun