Jun 10, 2015

No One Knows What to Do With Fukushima’s Endless Tanks of Radioactive Water

Nautilus: ...Some experts, including the eminently respectable IAEA, have suggested that TEPCO may have to simply dump the tritium-contaminated water into the ocean. Tritium traditionally hasn't been considered very dangerous to human health. Although tritiated water can reach all parts of the body, like normal water, it's also expelled quickly from the body, like normal water. If released into the ocean, the contaminated water would quickly be diluted, and it wouldn't bioaccumulate in fish (unlike strontium-90, for example, which is taken up by bones). 

But is tritiated water really so harmless? It's currently getting a second look from regulators in the United States. Last year, the EPA announced plans to review safety standards for tritiated water, which has leaked from many a nuclear plant. As this excellent Scientific American article explains, there's considerable uncertainty over whether the stuff is more dangerous than we previously thought.

The amount of tritium in Fukushima Daiichi's water is not negligible. The World Health Organization's standard for tritium in drinking water is 10,000 becquerels per liter (34 ounces). According to Mayumi Yoshida, a TEPCO communications officer, Fukushima's stored water contains between 1 and 5 million becquerels per liter. Yet Yoshida noted that operational nuclear power plants around the world discharge water with a much higher level of tritium than that.

Does that imply that the company is considering discharging its water into the sea, I asked? "Nothing has been decided but to keep storing at the site," Yoshida said. "We will discuss thoroughly with the government, the oversea and domestic experts, the fishermen, and the surrounding residents, which way would be the safest and the best for everyone, before deciding anything."

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