The discharge of treated water into the ocean from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station has begun. China, which had vocally opposed the plan and spread unscientific rumors about it, responded with a ban on Japanese products.
Tokyo Electric Power Co, or TEPCO, started the release operations at its facility on the afternoon of August 24. That was after final authorization came from a special meeting of the Japanese Cabinet ministers concerned.
Despite objections from commercial fishermen, the release began peacefully and with no disruptions.
How the ALPS Treated Water Release Works
Currently, more than 1.34 million tons of treated water have gone through the ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System) process. This removes radioactively contaminated materials from the water.
ALPS treated water is now stored in more than 1,000 large tanks lined up in rows on the power plant property. About 7,800 tons of this treated water will be discharged during the initial 17-day phase of the release.
The discharge only takes place, however, after the ALPS treated water is sufficiently diluted with seawater. Considering the immense interest in the operation both in Japan and abroad, hopefully, everything will proceed smoothly.
China Adds Economic Coercion to its Rumormongering
Meanwhile, for some time China has been making scientifically false charges about the release of the treated water.
First, China labels the treated water as "radioactively contaminated water." Next, it adds that the release poses a serious threat to the safety of the marine environment. Then, it says the treated water release is a danger to the life and health of human beings.
Furthermore, as soon as the release began, the Chinese government declared a total suspension of imports of Japanese aquatic products. Then, on August 25, it also banned the purchase and use of processed marine products from Japan.
Beijing claimed it did so "to protect the health of Chinese consumers and ensure the safety of imported food products." However, this unreasonable import ban has no scientific basis.
Nevertheless, it is certain to inflict severe economic damage on Japan's marine products industry. It was only to be expected that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida should have called for the ban to be lifted immediately.
What is ALPS Treated Water?
The ALPS treated water is a mixture of large amounts of plain water and very small amounts of tritiated water. They coexist within the treated water because it is impossible to separate the tritium from water.
Tritium is a radioactive element. But the radiation it emits is so weak that its effect on living organisms is negligible. Moreover, marine animals and human beings who have ingested tritium orally promptly expel it from their body.
In addition, tritium is naturally generated through the interaction of cosmic rays and air molecules in the atmosphere. As a result, for example, the rain that falls in Japan annually contains about 220 trillion becquerels of tritium.
In contrast, only one-tenth of that amount of tritium will be released from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant according to the plan. That is less than 22 trillion becquerels per year to be released.
Since the treated water is then greatly diluted with seawater, there is no way that it can adversely impact ecosystems. Furthermore, isn't it a fact that China itself is releasing large amounts of tritium from Chinese nuclear power plants?
China's response is riddled with contradictions and reeks of hypocrisy. Yet it is of concern because it helps to spread vicious rumors with no scientific basis.
Fortunately, in Japan, more members of the public approve of the treated water release plan than those who oppose it. However, the Japanese government must do more to explain the facts to prevent false rumors from spreading.
Decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi
The release of the treated water in storage is expected to continue for approximately 30 years. But that process will pave the way for the decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi and the rebirth of Fukushima.
The release of 7,800 tons of treated water is only the first step in that process. But it is a critical first step.
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- TEPCO Begins ALPS Treated Water Release at Fukushima Site as China Rachets Up Its Coercion
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- China Attempts to Exploit Treated Water Debate to Sow Division in South Korea
(Read the editorial in Japanese.)
Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun