Japan to Release Fukushima Water in Spring or Summer

    Japan to Release Fukushima Water in Spring or Summer
    Last updated Jan 13, 2023
    Image credit: Reuters


    • The Japanese government said on Friday that it could release treated water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean sometime in the coming spring or summer.[1]
    • According to the revised policy, the government will also support fishermen in Fukushima and nearby prefectures to fight potential reputational damage resulting from the water release through a $385M fund.[2]
    • In April 2021, Japan approved the release of over 1M tons of then-radioactive water – used to cool the reactors following the 2011 meltdown – in two years time.[3]
    • In 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami destroyed the Fukushima plant's cooling systems, causing its reactors to melt and release large amounts of radiation. The highly radioactive water used to cool the reactors has since leaked into the plant's basements and has been stored in more than 1K tanks in that location.[4]
    • Though the government deemed it safe to discharge the water, Japanese regulators admit it would still contain traces of tritium, a rare and radioactive isotope of hydrogen.[5]
    • The International Atomic Energy Agency had previously thrown its weight behind the decision, but it is now unsure if Japan's planned release of Fukushima water meets international standards.[6]


    Establishment-critical narrative

    The Japanese government's decision to contaminate the ocean with large volumes of radioactive waste violates the legal obligations of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. By turning its back on the clear evidence that the "treated water" still contains harmful radionuclides, Japan has deliberately put marine and human life at risk of radiation exposure.

    Pro-establishment narrative

    The ocean release of Fukushima water is the most realistic and safe option available to improve the environment surrounding the nuclear plant. The Japanese government is doing its utmost — through preoperational analysis and preparation — to ensure people's safety, which is why all radioactivity levels meet regulatory requirements and are consistent with accepted international practices.

    Cynical narrative

    More information is needed to assess the potential impacts on environmental and human health of releasing the Fukushima water into the sea. Continuing with the pacific discharge plan at a time when the burgeoning climate crisis and growing scale of natural disasters pose significant challenges to the world would be premature.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 28% chance that there will be a major nuclear accident before 2030, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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