Japan has still not come to a consensus on what to do with a million tons of nuclear water six years after their primary nuclear power plant in Fukushima was rocked by a tsunami.
The water stored in 900 large, dense, packed tanks on site could spill if another major natural disaster should strike, The Japan Times reported.
The government has been urged by experts to gradually release the water to the Pacific Ocean, as all the radioactive elements of the water except tritium—which has been said to be safe in small amounts—have been removed through treatment. But if the tank breaks, the contents may not be able to be controlled.
Local fishermen are extremely hesitant to this solution because many consumers are still uncertain to eat fish caught off Fukushima, despite tests that say the fish is safe to eat.
“People would shun Fukushima fish again as soon as the water is released,” Fumio Haga, a drag-net fisherman, told The Japan Times.
When a magnitude 9 earthquake struck Japan and triggered a tsunami that killed 18,000 people, the quake and massive flooding knocked out the power to the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing six reactors to have partial meltdowns. Radiation was launched into the air and highly contaminated water spewed into the Pacific Ocean.
Despite the fish being tested and scientists saying it is safe to eat, 1 in 5 residents still refuse to eat fish and other foods from Fukushima. Many people believe the water is stored because it’s not safe to release, and they think Fukushima fish is not available because it’s not safe to eat.
Currently, the amount of radioactive water at Fukushima is still growing by 150 tons a day.
The volume of contaminated water grows because it mixes with groundwater that has seeped in through cracks in the reactor buildings. After treatment, 210 tons is reused as cooling water, and the rest of the 150 tons is sent to tank storage.
And it’s expensive. The water has been causing headaches for the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the utility that owns the plant. In order to reduce the flow of the water, the company has dug dozens of wells to pump out groundwater before it reaches the reactor buildings. A questionable, underground “ice wall” was also built underground by partially freezing the ground around the reactors.
Some experts have proposed to move the tanks to an intermediate storage area, or delay the release of the water until 2023, when half the tritium that was present at the time of the disaster will have disappeared.