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Fukushima Daiichi Tritium: Dwarfed by China, Other Foreign Discharges

China's Qinshan No 3 Nuclear Power Plant in Zhejiang Province emits roughly 143 trillion Bq of tritium, some 6.5 times more than planned at Fukushima Daiichi.



Preparations for ocean release are underway at the site. (© TEPCO)

On July 4 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a comprehensive report on plans for the upcoming release of treated water at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The report judged that Japan's plan to release water treated by the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) from the nuclear power plant "meets international safety standards."

Nonetheless, vehement opposition to the plan is expected in China, South Korea, and other neighbors of Japan. Consequently, the Japanese government is determined to strive for understanding based on solid scientific evidence.

To that end, Tokyo is beefing up its information campaign related to the discharge of treated water from Fukushima Daiichi into the ocean. It aims to win the understanding of various foreign countries. 

Fukushima treated water

Comparing High Tritium Discharges in China, South Korea 

One reason for the campaign is that some of Japan's neighbors have repeatedly made unscientific accusations for political reasons. Those include China and South Korea, 

In fact, some nuclear power plants in China and South Korea release more than six times the amount of radioactive tritium per year than Fukushima Daiichi would. The Japanese government is presenting these objective facts to the outside world. Meanwhile, it is calling on other countries to respond calmly to the situation. 

Annual tritium emissions from Fukushima Daiichi are projected to be less than 22 trillion becquerels. That is the same as the pre-accident operational target. 

The plan also calls for radioactive concentrations to be diluted to one-fortieth of the national regulatory standard. Moreover, they would be reduced to one-seventh of the World Health Organization (WHO) drinking water standard. That would take place before the water is discharged. 

After discharge, the treated water will mix with seawater, thereby becoming further diluted.

China's Qinshan Nuclear Power Plant underwent renovation in April 12, 2011, to double its power output. (© Sankei by Masumi Kawasaki)

Tritium Releases in China

Tritium removal is technically challenging. And even overseas tritium is typically diluted below standard levels before being released into the ocean or the atmosphere. 

There are also quite a few examples of nuclear power facilities where such emissions greatly surpass those at Fukushima Daiichi.

According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the Qinshan No 3 Nuclear Power Plant in China's Zhejiang Province emits roughly 143 trillion becquerels yearly. That is approximately 6.5 times the level projected for Fukushima Daiichi. 


METI has also looked at the ratios for Yangjiang Nuclear Power Plant (Guangdong Province) and Hongyanhe Nuclear Power Plant (Liaoning Province). Those are five times and four times higher respectively than expected at Fukushima Daiichi. 

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Nishimura meets with IAEA Director General Grossi on the afternoon of July 4. (©Kyodo)

Other Countries' Tritium Releases

The South Korean nuclear facilities have similar outputs. Tritium levels at Wolseong Nuclear Power Plant and Kori Nuclear Power Plant near Busan reach 3.2 times and 2.2 times higher, respectively. That is compared to the planned level of tritium release at Fukushima Daiichi.

In Western countries, the numbers are exponentially higher. For example, they are 454.5 times higher for La Hague nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in France. Also, they are 54 times higher at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Canada. And 14.7 times for the Heysham Power Station in the United Kingdom compared to Fukushima Daiichi. 

METI has included data like this on its online informational site for overseas users. The government has also offered to provide briefings on the discharge when requested to do so by other countries. In May 2023, experts dispatched by the South Korean government visited Fukushima Daiichi.

On July 4 METI Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura met with IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi. He said, "We hope to communicate information about the safety of the discharges into the sea to the international community in a clear and transparent manner."


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author:  Aya Yonezawa

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