National

Fukushima water release into sea faces chorus of opposition

JIJI

Citizens and environmental groups have expressed opposition to the idea of releasing into the ocean water tainted with tritium, a radioactive substance, from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

“Long-term storage (of the tritium-containing water) is possible from technical and economic standpoints,” Komei Hosokawa, 63, an official of the Citizens’ Commission on Nuclear Energy, said at a public hearing held in Tokyo on Friday by a subcommittee of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy. “The radiation levels in the water will decrease during the long-term storage,” he added.

At a similar hearing held the same day in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, Aki Hashimoto, a housewife from the city, said, “I never want to see further worsening of ocean pollution from radiation.”

Opinions objecting to the release of the tritium-contaminated water into the ocean were also heard at a hearing held in the Fukushima town of Tomioka on Thursday.

After Friday’s hearings, Ichiro Yamamoto, who heads the subcommittee, told reporters that many participants in the hearings said the tainted water should continue to be held in storage tanks.

The subcommittee will study the option of keeping the water in the tanks, he added.

Tepco is lowering the radiation levels in contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 plant using special equipment, but the device cannot remove tritium.

The tritium-tainted water is stored in tanks within the premises of the power plant, which was heavily damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

In 2016, an expert panel of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy discussed five methods to dispose of the tritium-tainted water —injection deep into the ground, release into the sea after dilution, release into the air through evaporation, conversion into hydrogen through electrolysis, and burying it after it is solidified.

The panel estimated that the ocean release is the cheapest option, costing up to about ¥3.4 billion.