Japan Plans to Release Radioactive Water into the Pacific

Japan Plans to Release Radioactive Water into the Pacific

Khrystal Marlha

Japan’s Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, has announced the possible release of Fukushima’s radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. The power plant that holds the radioactive water is starting to run out of storage. A panic from farmers and fishermen have delayed the release of this water, citing fears of damage to human DNA. While the Japanese government has not made a final decision yet, the release is likely to start by 2022, as Tokyo Electric Power Co. has stated the plant will run out of space in the summer of 2022. Meanwhile, the contaminated water continues to increase by 170 tons per day.

This upcoming decision follows years of debate after the tsunami that hit in 2011 caused the power plant to suffer a triple meltdown. Ever since the accident, a pile-up of water has affected the prices of agricultural and fishery-related products, which still have not recovered. Fishermen have spoken out about their concerns and the struggle of getting retailers to buy their produce, as the government is unable to tackle the reputational damage from tsunami and meltdown. The problem is not improving; last year, Typhoon Hagibis swept through the region, causing harvesting and crop prices to plummet.

The decreased food yields are not the full extent  of the problem, however; many worry about the contaminated water damaging human DNA. While the government has not confirmed the presence of this risk, a report from the Greenpeace organization has stated that the dangerous levels of radioactive isotope carbon-14 and other hazardous radionuclides are potential destructions to human DNA. The environmental group also accused the government of being too lenient and giving off the impression that it only contained tritium after saying it was “treated.”

Shaun Bernie, a senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany explained that, “these, together with other radionuclides in the water, will remain hazardous for thousands of years with the potential to cause genetic damage.”

With the release of the contaminated water the only viable solution, holding off such an event does nothing to prevent the problem. There is no specific timeline leading up to the release, but Trade, Economy, and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama advises caution, saying “We are not at a stage where we can announce the specific timing of a decision, we want to proceed with the matter carefully.”

Nonetheless, the Japanese government will have to come to a conclusion soon, which will likely result in millions of tons of radioactive water at the Fukushima site if released with possible long-term consequences.