Concerns are resurfacing that the contaminated water from the Fukushima power plants could be discharged into the sea with Suga Yoshihide sworn in as new prime minister of Japan. Mr. Suga previously said whoever takes power next should tackle the issue of the radioactive contamination at Fukushima plant.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has embarked on the process of cutting the amount of the contaminated water currently stored at the premises of Fukushima power plants, down to the discharge level of radioactive substances set by the Japanese regulatory authorities. Some experts say that the state-run power corporation is preparing to let loose the water tainted with radioactive materials from Fukushima meltdown. Pundits argue that transparency of information is necessary to verify whether the radioactive nuclide density can be curtailed below the threshold as interned.
As of last year, the reactors at the Fukushima power plant site are belching an average 180 tons of contaminated water each day. This includes the massive amount of underground water that has been seeping into the nuclear reactors since 2013 in addition to the artificial influx of water. In February, the Japanese government reached the conclusion to unleash the water into the seas, with the storage capacity within the premises expected to reach the limit in August 2022.
TEPCO’s clean-up operation aims to reduce the discrepancy of radioactive density and cut the amount of discharging below standard for each type of nuclides. After upgrading and replacing the filters at multi-nuclide removal facility (ALPS), the process involves purifying the reservoir of the tainted water, checking the radioactive density, and processing the water again in the event density should exceed the threshold.
“The IAEA’s review has not found any issue with the performance of ALPS,” said Kim Yun-woo, a manager at the department of disaster prevention environment of the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission. “From a technical point of view, the purification process will likely bring down the density to meet the discharge standard, but in practice, we need to wait and see how much the water can get purified.”
The issue at hand is tritium. When the density is higher than a certain level, partial purification can be achieved through removal equipment. But the density of tritium in Fukushima water stands at 580,000 Bq per liter, impossibly low to remove with any equipment. Yet it is much higher than the discharge threshold at 60,000 Bq. There is known to be no effective technology to remove tritium under such circumstances.