Japanese Fisherman are furious with Tokyo Electric Power Co., latest plan to remove nuclear waste from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, and say it will destroy an already devastated fishing industry.
Officials of Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima nuclear power plant that was damaged during the earthquake/Tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, plan to release radioactive tritium into the Pacific Ocean.
In an interview with local media, Takashi Kawamura, chairman of TEPCO, said: “The decision has already been made.” He added, however, that the utility is waiting for approval from the Japanese government before going ahead with the plan and is seeking the understanding of local residents.
Around 770,000 tons of highly radioactive water is being stored in 580 tanks throughout the site. As we’ve reported in the past, large amounts of this water have already leaked into the Pacific Ocean, and fishermen who operate in waters say this planned release of radioactive material will devastate the fishing industry that is still struggling to recover from the initial nuclear disaster.
Tritium is a radioactive isotope produced in nuclear reactors by neutron activation of lithium-6. It has a half-life of 12.3 years.
Tritium is building up in water that has been used to cool three reactors, and despite being six-years into the disaster officials still, have not come up with a plan that doesn’t include simply dumping it into the sea.
Officials claim they can filter out 62 different radioactive particles found in the water tanks at Fukushima, but have no process in place to remove the Tritium.
“This accident happened more than six years ago, and the authorities should have been able to devise a way to remove the tritium instead of simply announcing that they are going to dump it into the ocean,” said Aileen Mioko-Smith, an anti-nuclear campaigner with Kyoto-based Green Action Japan.
“They say that it will be safe because the ocean is large, so it will be diluted, but that sets a precedent that can be copied, essentially permitting anyone to dump nuclear waste into our seas,” she told The Telegraph.
How Dangerous is tritium?
Well if you believe the people running the show, there is very little risk to humans. But if you look at the data and actual studies that have been preformed evidence suggests the kind of radiation emitted by tritium—a so-called beta particle— could be more effective at causing cancer than the high-energy radiation such as gamma rays.
When tritium decays, it releases s low-energy electron (roughly 18,000 electron volts) that escapes and slams into DNA, a ribosome or some other biologically important molecule. And, unlike other radionuclides, tritium is usually part of water, so it ends up in all parts of the body and therefore can, in theory, promote any kind of cancer.
But the problem with all of this is there is no real epidemiological study to assess the true risk of tritium. In fact, the current National Research Council effort to determine cancer risk from living near a nuclear power plant in the U.S. will not examine the specific risk from tritium leaks. “Our study will not be examining the cancer risks from the leaks as separate events, so it will not be a useful source of information for the purpose of linking cancer occurrence or death from cancer with tritium ingestion,” noted Ourania Kosti, director of the ongoing study and a senior program officer at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, in an e-mail response to Scientific America.