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  • Kim Ju-young

[ISSUE] Controversy Regarding Fukushima Wastewater Emission

No.166 / Oct 16, 2023

How would you feel if wastewater was emitted into your environment? Japan has experienced this situation. In 2011, an earthquake and tsunami occurred in Japan causing many casualties. Furthermore, these natural disasters affected the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The cooling system of the plant was destroyed, and the fuel rods in the plant were overheated, contaminating the water in the plant with radioactive materials. Tokyo Electronics pumped cooling water into the plant to cool the fuel rods. Therefore, this plant has produced a large amount of wastewater. The wastewater is being emitted in stages with the permission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Four emissions are scheduled, and the overall emission will take at least 30 years to complete. The first emission was implemented on August 24, 2023, into the ocean in front of Fukushima. As the wastewater contains, tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen primarily used in nuclear weapons, the wastewater emission has aroused a great controversy. Some people criticize emissions, whereas others do not. What are the opinions on the emissions?

Is it safe?

According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), some experts argue that the emissions are safe. They state that tritium occurs naturally in sea water and that its influence is minimal if its density is low. Furthermore, the IAEA has shown that the density of tritium in the emitted water, is lower than the emissions cap that the IAEA sets. James Smith, a professor of Environment and Geological Sciences at Portsmouth University, stated that you could theoretically drink this water. David Bailey, a scientist who operates a radioactive estimation laboratory in France, agreed with professor Smith.

Is it hazardous?

Although most scientists argue that the emissions are safe, some argue that they are not. For instance, marine biologist Robert Richmond of the University of Hawaii says, “Radioactive and ecological evaluation may be inadequate. In addition, Japan cannot know which material is in the pollutants, sediments, or organisms. Even though this is recognized, there is no way to eliminate this material.” Additionally, environmental organizations like Green Peace argue that this element affects animals and plants. It is believed that if animals or plants consume tritium, it will have adverse effects on them, including damage to their cellular structure. Jeju haenyeo (female divers) who earn their living by diving and gathering sea food feel threatened because they must work in the sea for their living.

As previously stated, the issue of wastewater pollution in Fukushima is still controversial in Korea and other countries. Since several emissions remain, many people will need to check the emissions periodically. The more attention that is paid to this, the better off we will be.

By Kim Ju-young, AG Reporter

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