Environment Waste Management Solid Waste Management Hazardous Waste Management

Is it really OK if Japan dumps radioactive fukushima water into the ocean?

Hazardous Waste Management

Summary

Japanese government announced recently that Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) will have to dump radioactive water from its crippled Fukushima nuclear power plants into the Pacific Ocean. The government seems to have good reasons for doing this.

Perspectives and insights

  • The funny thing is that putting water with tritium in the ocean is actually the best way to handle it. And that’s because it’s contaminated mainly with tritium, the least radioactive, and least harmful, of all radioactive elements.
  • It indeed have been chemistry experts who have suggested slowly releasing the tritium-contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean over about a ten-year period. According to them, concentrating it and containerizing it actually causes more of a potential hazard to people and the environment.
  • The health risks of tritium-contaminated water are so low that all the countries of the world have no idea what regulatory limits to put on it.

Xoologue - a discussion between Xoo and Moo

Moo: How strange! Mix it in the ocean and it is less harmful than containerizing and sealing it!

Xoo: Is it, Moo?

Moo: Well, I’ll damned if it isn’t. Just imagine how many living things – fish & others, and the entire food chain that starts in the sea - will be consuming it

Xoo: What you say is irrefutable. But the Japan's logic has a lot to do with the concentration, Moo.

Moo: You are referring to our minds at work, Xoo?

Xoo: I refer to concentration in its original meaning, Moo – the proportion present

Moo: What about it?

Xoo: Just try to imagine, Moo. I concentrate it, seal it, and keep it on land and some unforeseen even (the Fukushima event itself was unforeseen) spills all these out. The location where the spills occur could face devasting effects, because of the concentration of the spill.  But the ocean, Moo, is vast. If I can dispose it in such a manner that it is spread over a large area, well, it could be a lot less harmful. Imagine a gram of cyanide in a litre of water & the same dissolved in a million litres.

Moo: You have a point indeed, Xoo, but we are assuming that such a low concentration could be achieved in sea water. Remeber Exxon Valdex spill?

Xoo: Who wouldn’t remember, Moo? But Exxon spill wasn’t a planned exercise! Besides Moo, here we are talking about Japanese. When it comes to meticulousness & discipline, they might as well be considered to belong to a different species altogether!