Japanese govt intends to release Fukushima water in the next six months

19 Jan 2023 by The Water Diplomat

The government of Japan has announced its intention to release wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean within the next six months. In April 2021, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had already announced the proposed release of 1,23 million mᶟ of water into the Pacific Ocean. On the 13th of January this year, the Japanese government announced its intention to start releasing the water into the ocean during the first half of the current year. The government stated that regulators had deemed it safe to release the water, a process which will be independently verified by the International Atomic Agency (IAEA). A separate IAEA task force, which was established to review the safety of the treated water stored at the Fukushima plant, released its third report on its monitoring process in December 2022. The details of the planned release are yet to be clarified, but it is believed that the water will be pre-treated prior to release through an advanced liquid processing system which captures 62 different kinds of radionuclides but will still contain tritium.

Although the plans to release the water have been in existence for almost two years, the decision has met with significant opposition from fisheries cooperatives in Japan as well as from China and South Korea. On the 13th of January, China Daily reported that the dumping of nuclear wastewater is a violation both of the 1972 Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter – one of the first global conventions to protect the Marine environment - and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, as the discharge would not take place in inland waters.  

The accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant took place in 2011 following a tsunami triggered by an earthquake. Radioactive material was released into the atmosphere and into the water: primarily the water that was used to cool the facility, and the groundwater that penetrated the reactor. The wastewater is currently being stored in a series of tanks which are close to their full storage capacity of 1.37 million m and which are expected to be full of contaminant by mid-2023