Contaminated water that will reportedly be released into the sea from the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant contains a radioactive substance that has the potential to damage human DNA, a Greenpeace investigation has said.
The environmental group claims the 1.23m tonnes of water stored in more than 1,000 tanks at the plant contains “dangerous” levels of the radioactive isotope carbon-14, in addition to quantities of tritium that have already been widely reported.
The publication of the report Stemming the Tide 2020: The reality of the Fukushima radioactive water crisis comes days after Japanese media reported that the government was close to giving its approval to release the water into the Pacific ocean, despite objections from local fishermen who say the move will destroy their livelihoods.
While most attention has been focused on tritium – which cannot be removed by the on-site filtration system used by the plant’s operator Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco] – Greenpeace Japan and Greenpeace East Asia said that radioactive carbon contained in the stored water would also be discharged.
Carbon-14 has a half life of 5,370 years and becomes “incorporated into all living matter”, the report said.
“It concentrates in fish at a level thousands of times higher than tritium. Carbon-14 is especially important as a major contributor to collective human radiation dose and has the potential to damage human DNA.”
The Japanese government and Tepco refer to the water – which becomes tainted when it is used to cool the plant’s tsunami-damaged reactors – as “treated water” and give the impression that it contains only tritium, it added.