The operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant will have no choice but to release more than 1 million tons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean, Japan’s environment minister said on Tuesday.
“The only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it”, Yoshiaki Harada said in a news briefing in Tokyo. “The whole of the government will discuss this, but I would like to offer my simple opinion.”
Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) has collected water used to keep the fuel cores from melting and groundwater that has seeped into the basement levels of the plant.
Tepco has claimed that the water only contains tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that is difficult to separate but poses little danger to human health. Government documents leaked to The Telegraph last year show that the water still contains radioactive material – including strontium, iodine, rhodium and cobalt – well above legally permitted levels.
Greenpeace has issued a strongly worded statement condemning Mr Harada’s proposal. The minister’s statement “is wholly inaccurate – both scientifically and politically”, the statement said.
“The Japanese government has been presented with technical options, including from US nuclear companies, for removing radioactive tritium from the contaminated water – so far it has chosen for financial and political reasons to ignore these.
Relations between the East Asian nations are already frosty following a dispute over compensation for Koreans forced to work in Japanese factories in World War Two.
Environmental groups caution that radionuclides can build up in fish and shellfish, for example, and strontium in the bones of small fish that might be consumed by humans would potentially be a serious concern. If ingested by humans, strontium 90 concentrates in teeth and bones and can cause bone cancer or leukaemia.
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