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A decade after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, polluted water symbolizes Japan aponia battles

TOKYO. Next to the ruins of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, more than 1,000 huge metal tanks stand in silent testimony to one of the worst nuclear disasters in history, the demolition of three nuclear reactors 10 months ago.

The tanks contain almost 1.25 million tons of cooling system water since the 2011 disaster and groundwater floods over the years, equivalent to about 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools – most of which are still dangerously radioactive.

Exhausting space to build more tanks, the government wants to gradually release water into the sea after it has been disinfected and diluted over the next three decades or more.

Although an official decision has yet to be announced, the government և Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) insists that ocean emissions are their preferred solution և it is completely safe.

The only thing that bothers them seems to be the Olympics և the bad advertising that can cause before the Games in July.

The idea of ​​releasing the Rele has angered the Fukushima fishing community, which is only now recovering from the 2011 disaster and the ensuing brawl following ocean pollution. Angry is also burning in South Korea, even though it is more than 600 miles away from Aponia.

“Recovery is the most important thing for us. Releasing the water will bring the recovery process back,” said Takayuki Yanai, head of the Onamaha Fishing Cooperative Association. The local fishing industry is still only half as big as it was before the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, he said. “I really want them to stop. There must be other options. ”

When it comes to science, the Aponia government և TEPCO says it’s their side.

The urn has been cleaned or will be cleaned with an advanced purification system known as ALPS, which is able to remove almost all radionuclides present in the water, including really dangerous ones such as strontium և cesium.

All that remained was tritium, a natural isotope of hydrogen that is considered less dangerous to human health and regularly dumped into the ocean from nuclear power plants around the world. Tritium will be accompanied by small traces of carbon-14, a radioactive isotope of carbon.

If all the treated water were to be discharged into the sea in just one year, as opposed to three decades, the impact of radiation on the local population would be more than a thousandth of the impact of natural radiation in Japan, Yumiko said. Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said the water leak is “technically feasible” and has offered independent radiation monitoring to reassure the public that it will meet international standards.

But when it comes to public confidence, the Aponia government և TEPCO are on more shocking ground.

From the first weeks of the disaster, when they slowly acknowledged that three reactor cores had melted, there was a tendency for the bad news to worsen.

For years, TEPCO claimed that the purified water stored in the plant contained only tritium, but in-depth data on its site show that the treatment process failed to remove many dangerous radionuclides.

Eventually, in 2018, he had to admit that 70% of his water was still contaminated with dangerous radioactive elements, including strontium-90, a bone-finding radionuclide that could cause cancer. getting rid of.

TEPCO explains the pollution by the fact that it accelerated the treatment process after the accident, as it was necessary to quickly bring the water radiation to a manageable level. Subsequent experiments have shown that ALPS, when used carefully և repeatedly, can bring radionuclide concentrations within international standards.

TEPCO Global Communications Manager Ryunosuke Takanori acknowledged that some of his site’s data was not presented in an “easily understandable way”, but said the company was working hard to “get actively involved in communication initiatives to provide accurate and fast information”.

Kans Büssler, a marine radiochemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, says he would prefer to see all the water properly before it is cleaned.

Radioactive elements such as cesium-strontium are many times more dangerous to human health than tritium, which is many times more likely to accumulate inside fish on the seabed.

“After cleaning it, decide what to do,” he said. “They spent eight years without telling us about it, and now they say, ‘Trust us, we’re going to take care of it.’ »

In the port of Onama, northeast of Japan, about 40 miles south of the sunken Aponia nuclear power plant, fish samples from each ocean hunt are analyzed for radiation. Tests regularly come back simple, although last month it was found that black rock alone had a national standard five times the cesium level, the first fish to fail the test 16 months later.

Fishing cooperative Yanai says she is concerned about releasing more tritium into the sea, but her main concern is “consumers’ reckless fear” of “damaging the reputation” of her products.

Shaun Burney, a senior nuclear expert at Greenpeace Germany, said there was a risk that tritium-carbon-14 emissions could be delayed until at least 2035, giving tritium more time to decompose hydrogen.

But he connects the decision with a much bigger promise of the government. Completely remove completely radioactive corium from destroyed reactors by 2041 or 2051, although its technology is not yet available, as is the removal of millions of tons of contaminated surface soil. from local fields.

In a new report, Greenpeace called the promise a “mistake.”

“It just won’t happen, but it’s a kind of mantra,” Burney said. “The urn is a symbol. “If they can get rid of it, they are fulfilling that obligation to eliminate the problem, so they will leave it in the Pacific.”

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The Washington Post’s Julia Mio Inuma contributed to this report.

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