Radioactive water: Fukushima authorities considering ocean discharge

Radioactive water accumulating at the Fukushima nuclear site is raising international concern, as recent media reports indicate Japanese authorities are considering discharging the water into local oceans.

Fukushima power plant in 2007 prior to the nuclear meltdown. Source: Wikimedia Commons

While most radioactive elements in water can be treated using well-established ion-exchange resins, one element – tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen – currently has no known method of treatment.

Water storage tanks at Fukushima are expected to reach capacity in 2022, and with no options for treatment, authorities have been scrambling to find an acceptable solution for the contaminated water.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster occurred on 11th March 2011 when a large tsunami hit the plant causing irrevocable damage. A melt-down occurred in the following days as the plant’s cooling systems failed and tonnes of radioactive material spilled into the local area.

Since then, the Japanese government has spared no expense in remediating the site, with a 2016 government report estimating $76 billion USD would be spent on the clean-up.

Fukushima site clean-up and remediation crew. Source: Wikimedia Commons