Is the radioactive water being discharged from the Fukushima nuclear plant really different from waste water from other nuclear plants?!
Take a look at the viral claim, and find out what the facts really are!
Fukushima Radioactive Water Is Different From Normal Nuclear Waste Water!
People are sharing a Greenpeace article, as evidence that the radioactive water from Fukushima is not the same as normal nuclear waste water, but far more toxic and dangerous. Here is an excerpt from that Greenpeace article:
How is Fukushima wastewater distinguished from other nuclear plants?
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What Makes Fukushima Radioactive Water Different?
The Greenpeace article makes for a compelling read, but here are the reasons why it is no longer accurate.
Fact #1 : Greenpeace Posted This In April 2021
First, it is best to note that this Greenpeace article was written in April 2021 in reaction to the Japanese government’s publication of its plan to eventually discharge the Fukushima radioactive waste water into the ocean.
The problem is that article was written almost 2.5 years before Japan actually initiated its plan to release the treated radioactive waste water from the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Since then, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the Japanese government have provided additional data to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for its evaluation of the proposed plan to discharge treated radioactive waste water into the ocean.
Fact #2 : IAEA Released A Comprehensive Report
Right after announcing its waste water release plan in April 2021, the Japanese government requested that the IAEA conduct a detailed review of that plan, to ensure that it meets the relevant international safety standards.
The IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi accepted and established a task force to review the Japanese government’s plan to release the treated radioactive waste water. The task force was made up of top specialists from within the IAEA, and advised by internationally-recognised external experts from across the globe.
After two years of work, the IAEA publicly released its comprehensive report (PDF download) on 4 July 2023. The IAEA concluded that the plan to release treated water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the sea was “consistent with IAEA Safety Standards“.
Fact #3 : Fukushima Waste Water Is Filtered
It is true that the Fukushima waste water is different from normal nuclear waste water in that it has come into direct contact with radioactive material. Hence, it has many more radionuclides than normal nuclear waste water.
However, the heavily-contaminated waste water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is not going to be released directly into the ocean.
Instead, it will be filtered and treated using the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), to remove 62 radionuclides from the contaminated water.
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Fact #4 : Fukushima Water Tanks Keep Leaking!
The Greenpeace article correctly points that there is a lot of radioactive water being stored at Fukushima Daiichi. In fact, there is currently about 1.3 million tonnes of radioactive water is stored in over 1,000 gigantic tanks!
Obviously, this is not a sustainable solution for TEPCO in the long-term, as they have to keep building new tanks, and old tanks will eventually leak. Or the water may be accidentally released.
- In August 2013, TEPCO revealed that 300 metric tonnes of highly-radioactive water leaked from a storage tank.
- In October 2013, TEPCO revealed that another tank was leaking, and some of the highly-radioactive water may have reached the ocean.
- In February 2014, TEPCO revealed that a valve left open by mistake allowed about 100 tonnes of highly-radioactive water to overflow from a storage tank.
- In October 2016, about 32 litres of highly-radioactive water leaked from a seam in a water tank.
Regardless of what we may think about the release of radioactive water into the ocean, it doesn’t appear to be practical to keep all that water in tanks that will eventually leak. Or even worse – get discharged all in one go, if there is another earthquake!
It is arguably much safer to treat and discharge the water, instead of risking these inevitable leaks of highly-radioactive water.
Fact #5 : Expected Exposure 1000X Lower Than Limit
For the purpose of the IAEA review, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) of Japan selected a dose constraint of 0.05 mSv (millisieverts) per year for someone exposed to the ALPS-treated water.
That is 20X lower than the “average accumulated background radiation dose of an individual for 1 year, exclusive of radon, in the United States“. In other words – very conservative.
The IAEA task force and TEPCO also assessed the exposure risk from within a 10 km x 10 km area surrounding the discharge point. Again, very conservative – because no one really would be foolish enough to fish from that area!
In the end, the amount of extra radioactivity that one might get from swimming in ALPS-treated water and ingesting seafood exposed to ALPS-treated water is less than 0.01 microsieverts. That’s about 5,000X lower than the NRA limit!
The IAEA report, however, is even more conservative in its evaluation:
[I]n all cases the doses are very low and more than 1000 times lower than the dose constraint of 0.05 mSv per year.
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Dr. Adrian Wong has been writing about tech and science since 1997, even publishing a book with Prentice Hall called Breaking Through The BIOS Barrier (ISBN 978-0131455368) while in medical school.
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