Japan nuclear plant seeks to assure fishermen of impending treated water release
Rows of water storage tanks surround the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, waiting to release their contents into the sea possibly as early as this spring, much to the ire of fishermen who worry it could affect the reputation of their industry.
Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) currently treats the water with the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), a multi-nuclide removal system, to remove various radioactive materials from contaminated water.
The company is seeking to assure the fishery industry that the treated water, which still contains some tritium, do not pose a danger to the environment. It has even raised flounder and abalone in the treated water in an effort to show that it is safe.
“I think we are able to show that there is no change in things like the way that they are growing and the tritium concentration in their bodies,” Tepco official Tomohiko Mayuzumi told Reuters.
The storage tanks were put in place to keep the water used to cool the reactors in the aftermath of the 2011 disaster, where a tsunami crashed into the Daiichi plant, setting off explosions and meltdowns.
But with the tanks soon reaching capacity, Tepco is building a pipeline and other facilities to discharge the water into the sea. Mayuzumi noted that there is no change to the government’s plan that the water could be released around the spring or summer of this year and said Tepco was on track to finish its construction.
“We are currently in the process of installing the equipment and we are working towards the goal of completing the installation around the spring of 2023,” said Mayuzumi.
Fukushima fishermen, however, are displeased. They worry about the safety of the water and whether the industry will suffer reputational damage.
Third-generation fisherman, Haruo Ono, 71, has been sailing the sea for half a century from Shinchimachi, 55 km north of the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
He said there was insufficient communication about the plan.
"I think it's still too early to release the water into the ocean. It's too soon,” Ono said.
“I'd understand if they discussed it with everyone beforehand it, but they haven't talked about it yet, and they shouldn't just go ahead and release it into the sea."
Ono’s sons are also fishermen, but he wants his grandchildren to choose other work due to his worries about the ocean’s future.
Experts like Toshihiro Wada, an associate professor in environment and radiation studies at Fukushima University, said the timing of the release of the water, and the alarmist talk it will bring, was unfortunate.
He added that the water release was coming at a time when the effects of radioactive substances on fishing in the area had largely gone away but the recovery of the fishing industry had yet to progress sufficiently.