Back in 2011, the world's second-worst nuclear disaster occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, located in northern Japan. A tsunami, triggered by a 9.1-magnitude earthquake that struck near Honshu island, produced waves that damaged the plant's backup generators.
The plant utilized 6 boiling-water reactors, three of them being active at that time. The operators managed to shut them down, but, due to the loss of power, they were not cooled down efficiently. As a result, fuel rods in the active reactors melted leading to a radiation release.
The contaminated water still remains in the facility, but as the storage space is running out, officials state the only choice is to deposit it into the sea. Currently, about 1,000 tanks contain more than 1 million tons of radioactive water. According to the facility's officials state that all tanks will be full by mid-2022.
The plant is operated by Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) which has tried to decontaminate the water. Nevertheless, there is no method to remove tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. It will not the first time that water containing tritium will be dumped into the ocean but Tepco stated that more polluting substances except for tritium are contained into the water.
The decision is not final yet as the Japanese Government is willing to conduct a thorough investigation. Currently, a panel of experts is evaluating the situation and will provide a final report to the government. "There is no fact that the method of disposal of contaminated water has been decided. The government would like to make a decision after making thorough discussion," Yoshihide Suga, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, stated.
South Korea has expressed concerns about the dumping endeavor. Kwon Se-jung, the government Minister for Environmental Affairs, said that Japan and South Korea have to cooperate in order to resolve the issue protecting the ocean life and ensuring the health of people. "The South Korean government is well aware of the impact of the treatment of the contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant on the health and safety of the people of both countries, and to the entire nation," South Korea's ministry stated.
If the dumping operation is realized, it would highly affect fishing operations in the Pacific. Fishermen have been trying to re-establish their industry for 8 years and recently, prices reached the pre-disaster levels. “The remarks’ impacts are immeasurable, stoking concerns among local fishery industry people and spreading harmful rumors,” Japan's National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations, stated.
Alternative options for resolving the issue involve vaporizing the contaminated water or storing it somewhere else on land.