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China is concerned that Japan is diluting radioactive tritium from Fukushima into the ocean. This is what science says

JVTech News China is concerned that Japan is diluting radioactive tritium from Fukushima into the ocean. This is what science says

Published on 09/18/2023 at 10:30 p.m.

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The decision by the Japanese company TEPCO to dilute contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in the Pacific Ocean has raised environmental concerns, especially in China and South Korea.

Fukushima tritium… Directly in the ocean

On August 24, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company), The Japanese company in charge of managing the Fukushima nuclear power plant has begun to dilute the treated water from these facilities in the Pacific Ocean.. This plant has been constantly in the spotlight since the cores of three of its reactors partially melted due to damage caused by the tsunami that occurred on March 11, 2011.

Since then, TEPCO has gradually dismantled the damaged facilities under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This plant produces contaminated water every day because it is necessary to use this fluid to cool the reactor fuel rods, which caused its accumulation over the years in storage tanks.

The problem is that TEPCO currently has more than 1,000 tanks of contaminated water, that take up a lot of space. Those responsible for the company spent several months advocating for the release of the space occupied by these tanks in order to continue with the dismantling of the nuclear power plant. Their request was granted and the IAEA gave them the green light to treat the contaminated water and dilute it in the Pacific Ocean.

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China’s concerns

IAEA approval should ensure that TEPCO’s strategy is appropriate, but its support has not been enough to reassure everyone. Indeed, Contaminated water contains a very small amount of tritium.. This isotope of hydrogen is radioactive and curiously participates, along with deuterium, in the composition of the fuel of experimental nuclear fusion reactors. ITER, the fusion reactor being built in the French city of Cadarache, will actually use a plasma of tritium and deuterium nuclei to sustain the fusion reaction.

China bans the import of Japanese seafood because it suspects they may be contaminated, with the strongest protests coming from the governments of South Korea and China. In fact, the country led by Xi Jinping has banned the import of Japanese seafood because he suspects they could be contaminated. These protests are legitimate to the extent that any maneuver that could compromise the environment or people’s health must necessarily be the subject of an audit.

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However, to dispel doubts and determine whether the tritium released by TEPCO is dangerous, it is best to turn to the answers provided by science. The first thing that should not be overlooked is that the contents of the more than 1,000 tanks will gradually be diluted in the ocean in a process that will last three decades. Contaminated water is previously treated to eliminate all radioactive elements, but current technology does not allow this hydrogen isotope to be filtered. This is where the problem lies.

Japan’s Environment Ministry periodically takes seawater samples from eleven different points near Fukushima. The objective is to measure the concentration of tritium since the start of dilution by TEPCO at the end of August. The last measurement was made on September 11 and at that time the presence of tritium was undetectable.

The Japanese authorities will continue to carry out this type of analysis every week to continuously monitor the level of tritium. However, that’s not all we know. The World Health Organization states that drinking water should only contain less than 10,000 becquerels per literwhich allows us to reach a very reasonable conclusion: for the moment, the tritium diluted by TEPCO does not pose any problem.

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As Operador Nuclear explains in its interesting and documented tweet, the incidence of cosmic rays in the upper layers of the atmosphere triggers the production of 1,302 g of tritium each year, and most of this element is diluted naturally in the oceans. . This simply means that seawater has always contained a very small amount of tritium, which is harmless to the health of living organisms. TEPCO will dilute less than 1 g of tritium per year in the Pacific Ocean, an amount that, a priori, should not pose any problem for the biosphere.

Despite this, some scientists have proposed adopting a cautious approach because it is very difficult to accurately estimate the impact of radionuclides on nature and what concentration is absolutely safe.. And yes, there is no doubt that this is the most prudent position to take. What the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Japanese government and the World Health Organization tell us is reassuring, so we have no reason to worry. However, it is very positive that some scientists and environmental organizations remain vigilant to alert us if a problem arises.

Let’s hope that everything goes as planned and that the impact of Fukushima tritium on nature is minimal.

Times of National
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