Tritium water from Fukushima: China faces South Korea against Japan

On the question of the disposal of millions of cubimeters of tritium-contaminated cooling water from the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, China is supporting South Korea in its demand for international supervision. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) should work with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure that wastewater is safely disposed of, said a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, according to the Xinhua news agency.

The South Korean Minister for Oceans and Fisheries, Moon Seong-hyeok, wrote to the IMO last Friday. In doing so, he asked to examine possibilities for cooperation with the IAEA so that the water from the nuclear power plant could be disposed of in a way that was acceptable to the international community, as reported by the South Korean broadcaster KBS. Japan threatens marine ecology around the world and the lives of the citizens of individual countries, said the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The Japanese government should not dump contaminated water into the sea without negotiating it from the participating countries and international organizations

Zhao Lijian from the Chinese Foreign Ministry laut Xinhua stresses that Japan has not responded clearly to the grave concerns of the international community. The decision of the Japanese government is neither responsible nor transparent. “Japan only pursues its own interests and leaves endless problems for the international community and future generations,” Zhao said.

Since the Fukushima meltdown ten years ago, three reactors in which the fuel rods were melted have had to be constantly cooled. Around 1.23 million cubic meters have accumulated and are stored on the nuclear power plant site. It is cleaned with the ALPS process, so that 62 radionuclides can be removed from the water, with the exception of a residue that is below the legal requirements for discharge into the environment, the IAEA explained in a report from April 2020. Tritium can with ALPS are not removed, including the radioactive isotope carbon-14.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant with its six reactor blocks before the disaster. It is about 250 km from Tokyo as the crow flies. All six units are based on the boiling water reactor series BWR 3 to BWR 5 from the US company General Electric; they were built between 1971 and 1979. Unit 1 was originally supposed to be closed at the end of March 2011, but the Japanese authorities approved a ten-year extension in February 2011.
(Image: dpa)

The total storage capacity of the tanks was around 1.37 million cubic meters by the end of 2020. The IAEA estimates that they should be full by summer 2022. In April, the Japanese government decided that the water should be released into the sea for an extended period in about two years.

The German Federal Office for Radiation Protection has calculated that if the water from the waste water tanks were released into the sea over ten years, this would correspond to a release of around 90 terabecquerels of tritium per year. This in turn corresponds roughly to the annual discharge of tritium with the wastewater from all German nuclear power plants in 2016. Greenpeace considers the lack of space, because of which the cooling water is to be discharged, to be an emergency constructed by the Japanese government and Tepco.


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