As space runs out at 1,044 storage tanks at the Japanese nuclear power plant in Fukushima Daiichi, the discussion of what to do with 1.23 million tonnes of contaminated water this week gained yet another element against its dumping into the sea. According to the environmental rights organization Greenpeace, water contains radioactive carbon with the potential to damage human DNA.
Since the great earthquake and subsequent tsunami that destroyed much of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has been pumping tens of thousands of tons of water as a way to cool the damaged reactors. This water, plus groundwater and rainwater that penetrates the plant daily are stored. The Japanese government (and that includes the Environment Minister) says that the only solution to address the lack of space is to pour water into the Pacific Ocean.
“We cannot postpone the issue forever,” said Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. According to Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama, “to avoid the delay in the process of decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi, we need to make a decision on how to deal with water processed, whose volume increases every day ”.
For Greenpeace, the decontamination system used by the Japanese government is not enough. Daily, 170 tons of water flow into TEPCO’s treatment tanks, where it is processed to eliminate most radioactive isotopes – minus trillium, a radioactive hydrogen isotope that nuclear power plants routinely dilute and dump along with water in the oceans.
However, Greenpeace, in the report Stemming the Tide 2020: The reality of the Fukushima radioactive water crisis, claims that the radioactive carbon contained in stored water would contaminate the ocean, “concentrating at a level thousands of times higher than that of tritium, with the potential to damage human DNA ”.
The study’s author and senior nuclear expert at Greenpeace Germany, Shaun Burnie, told CNN that there may be a total of up to 63.6 GBq (gigabecquerels) of carbon-14 in the storage tanks. TEPCO contested the information through its spokesman, Ryounosuke Takanori: according to him, the concentration of carbon-14 contained in the treated water is about 2 to 220 becquerels per liter, as measured in the tanks.