It has been 12 years since the Fukushima nuclear plant was damaged in an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. The authorities in Japan are planning to clear the water remaining in the plant, in case there is another earthquake, and to decommission the plant.
Prof. Pekka Sinervo has been closely following the story and shares his concerns on this action in an interview with CTV.
The water to be released from the nuclear plant is treated to remove most of the radioactive waste but retains tritium, which is slightly radioactive. While Japan plans to release the tritiated water over a period of 30 years, experts are worried about the cumulative impact of such a large-scale release.
The problem lies in the significant quantity of tritiated water that will be released—about a billion liters over three decades. This process involves diluting the treated water containing tritium and releasing it in a controlled manner, ensuring that the tritium levels remain below the maximum set limits. Nuclear power plants, including CANDU reactors, regularly release small amounts of tritium as part of their operation, but not on a decadal basis and at significantly lower levels compared to the planned release at Fukushima. “This, in my view, can only be seen as a long-term experiment with unknown consequences to the local environment.” Professor Sinervo notes.
The proposed plan has received opposition from Japanese fishermen, as well as neighboring countries like South Korea and China. The risks associated with the release of tritiated water include potential impacts on marine ecosystems.
As for the impact on Canadians, the release of tritiated water into the Pacific Ocean is not expected to directly affect Canadian waters. The vastness of the Pacific Ocean dilutes the tritium to such an extent that elevated levels would not be observed even several hundred kilometers away from the plant. However, the primary concern remains for the local area in close proximity to the Fukushima plant.
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