North and South Korea are fighting plans by the Japanese government to release radioactive water presently stored at the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant in the northeast coast of Japan into the Pacific Ocean.
Recently, Japan’s environment minister Yoshiaki Harada declared that releasing more than 1 million tons of radioactive water from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster into the Pacific Ocean was the “only option” for Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), the operator of the plant.
Speaking in Tokyo on Tuesday, Harada told reporters, “The only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it. The whole of the government will discuss this, but I would like to offer my simple opinion.”
Water that is contaminated with radioactive elements has been collecting at the Fukushima plant since it was destroyed by a magnitude-9 earthquake and a series of tsunamis in March 2011. The giant waves swamped the cooling equipment for three of the six reactors at the site, causing the reactors to experience melt-throughs.
Water is being pumped into the reactor shields to control their temperatures, resulting in more than 1 million tons of water being made radioactive. Groundwater is also seeping into the subterranean levels of the plant, adding to the amount of radioactive water that needs to be stored in vast steel tanks on land surrounding the structure.
The Japanese government says storing the water in tanks is not a viable long-term solution to the problem and the technology to completely eradicate all signs of radioactivity from the water is yet to be developed. A new panel has been commissioned to draw up alternative solutions, which so far have included burying water underground in vast concrete-lined pits and injecting it into geological strata far beneath the surface.
However, the most favored and least expensive option would be to gradually release the water into the ocean.