Fukushima Nuclear Plant commences wastewater release trials

13 Jun 2023 by The Water Diplomat

Fukushima wastewater

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility has commenced the trials of equipment to release radioactive wastewater from the plant into the Pacific Ocean. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) began tests of processing equipment on the 11th of June for the planned release of pre-treated wastewater which has been stored at the severely damaged nuclear facility. This involved transferring seawater into an underwater tunnel which is planned to be used for the release of the wastewater into the ocean.

The radioactive water was previously used to cool the reactors at the Fukushima plant which experienced a meltdown in 2011 following two earthquake-generated tsunamis. At the time, the plant operators pumped seawater into the system to cool the reactor. For the last 12 years, an average of 130 mᶟ of water has been contaminated per day, building a stock of wastewater which is currently close to exceeding the storage capacity of the plant. Currently some 1.3 million mᶟ has been accumulated in storage tanks which are located on the site of the Fukushima plant. The water has been pre-treated by TEPCO through a filtration system known as an Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), to remove 62 radionuclides from contaminated water. However, the water still contains significant quantities of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. 

In May, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report confirming that TEPCO has in the capabilities for accurate and precise measurement of the radioactive elements contained in the pre-treated water that is stored on site. The IAEA is engaged in a safety review which includes assessments of the technical plans and processes related to the treated water discharge.

The planned release of radioactive water has raised concerns among Pacific Island states and China, especially with regard to the safety of fishing in nearby waters. In South Korea, nationwide briefings have commenced on the scientific information on the safety of seawater and the fisheries products that are of importance to he South Korean economy.