Japan’s plan to release treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in the Pacific Ocean will have “zero environmental impact,” according to a professor who spoke to CNBC.
Japan said on Tuesday that the operator of the Fukushima plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co or TEPCO, will treat and dilute the water before pumping it in about two years. There are more than a million metric tons of radioactive water from the destroyed plant and it will take decades to release it completely.
The move drew strong opposition from Japan’s neighbors and environmental activists.
But Brent Heuser of the University of Illinois said the filtration process will remove most radioactive elements from the water, leaving only tritium – a radioactive isotope of hydrogen – that is not harmful in small amounts.
Photo taken on October 12, 2017 shows huge tanks that store contaminated radioactive wastewater at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.
Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images
“Tritium is not dangerous in small quantities … it will be very diluted, it is simply not a concern, the environmental impact is zero,” Heuser, professor of nuclear, plasma and radiological engineering, told the “Squawk Box Asia” at CNBC. On thursday.
Even so, Japan’s neighbors, including China and South Korea, opposed the plan. The environmental group Greenpeace, as well as local residents and fishermen also expressed their concerns.
South Korea has summoned the Japanese ambassador to Seoul and is exploring ways to fight Japan’s decision in an international court.
In China, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticized Japan in a statement for having decided “unilaterally” to release the water, while ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian challenged Japanese authorities to drink water from the Fukushima factory.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported on Taiwan saying it will continue to voice its concerns and closely monitor related developments.
Polluting the ocean
The reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant were damaged by a major earthquake and tsunami in 2011. TEPCO has been accumulating contaminated water in tanks, but storage capacity is likely to run out by the end of next year.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said that pouring water into the ocean was the “most realistic” option.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said that “the water disposal method chosen by Japan is technically feasible and is in line with international practice.” The United States said Japan has been transparent and that its approach appears to be in line with “globally accepted nuclear safety standards”.
For Heuser, there are bigger issues about ocean pollution to worry about than Japan releasing treated water.
“I would say to people who are concerned about this going to the ocean: we throw 8 tons of plastics into the ocean, pregnant women should not eat tuna because of mercury poisoning, the microplastic is in the marine food chain – that’s what we should be worry, “he said.