Japan tries to dilute tritium danger

TEPCO still wants to dump radioactive water into the ocean. Help stop it!

From various correspondents

More than one million tonnes of radioactively contaminated water has already accumulated at the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant site, stored in steel tanks and increasing in volume daily — by some accounts one new tank is added every four days. Space to store it is rapidly running out. So far, the only “plan” Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has come up with to deal with the problem is to dump the water into the Pacific Ocean.

The water is accumulating in part because about 150 tonnes of groundwater seeps daily through cracks in the stricken reactors’ foundations, thereby becoming contaminated with radioactive isotopes. In addition, water flows down the surrounding hillsides onto the site, picks up radiation, and must be captured and stored.

TEPCO has so far been pumping the contaminated water through a filtering system that can only remove cesium and strontium. But the process creates a highly toxic sludge as a byproduct, which also has to be stored in sealed canisters on site.

Tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, cannot of course be removed from water. Hence the plan to dump the radioactive (tritiated) water into the ocean. This move has long been strongly opposed by people from many spectra in Japan. A “Resolution Against the Ocean Dumping of Radioactive Tritium-contaminated Waste Water From the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant,” has been initiated by physics Professor Emeritus at Kyoto University, Kosaku Yamada, under the auspices of the Association for Citizens and Scientists Concerned about Internal Radiation Exposures (ACSIR). It has already garnered signatures from 280 individuals and 35 organizations. The Resolution is reproduced further below.

The goal of the resolution is to raise public awareness about the prolonged serious health effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster that the Japanese government is taking every step to conceal.

The resolution has already been submitted to the Japanese government, TEPCO, the Nuclear Regulatory Authority and the governor of Fukushima Prefecture. On August 30 and 31, the government held public hearings on this issue at three sites — Tomioka and Koriyama (both Fukushima Prefecture) and Tokyo.

There, several members of the ACSIR, including Professor Yamada, presented their views against the dumping of tritiated water. But, reports Professor Yamada, despite the fact that “only one speaker endorsed the government plan, and only on the condition of rigorous measurement of radioactivity, and all the 45 other speakers opposed the dumping plan, the Japanese government and mainstream mass-media continue to blatantly promote their PR campaign that radiological risks of tritium are ‘ignorable'”.

Of course, part of the urgency of “getting rid” of the drums of radioactive water is to present a “problem solved” face to the world before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics which, shockingly, intends to hold the baseball and softball events inside the Fukushima Prefecture.

To counter this misleading propaganda and shine a more international spotlight on the dumping plan, the ACSIR are calling on the international community to sign on to their resolution as well. They urge us to lend our voices and insist that the Japanese authorities not dump tritiated water into the ocean. You can join this effort by sending your contact details directly to Professor Yamada at:


A Resolution Against the Ocean Dumping of Radioactive Tritium-contaminated Waste Water From the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant

It was announced in March, 2014, that in the defunct Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant there was a total of approximately 3,400 trillion becquerels of tritium, with 830 trillion becquerels stored in tanks. This enormous amount of radioactive waste water has still continued to increase since then. In these circumstances, the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Ltd. (TEPCO), in their efforts to find an easy way to dispose of the tritium-contaminated waste water created by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, have been trying to dilute and dump it into the ocean. They have been watching for an unguarded moment among the opposition movements including the fishery cooperatives who are strongly against the dumping. Now they are about to finally decide to implement the ocean dumping plan. Far from regulating such activities, Toyoshi Fuketa, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority, has been championing this plan.

We are determined that the Japanese government and TEPCO shall never dump the radioactive waste water into the ocean for the following reasons:

1. Generally misunderstood as posing little risk to life and health, tritium is an extremely hazardous radioactive material. This is because organisms are not able to chemically distinguish tritium water from the normal water which composes most of the human body. This means that tritium can invade any part of the human body, irradiating it from inside; therefore, tritium can damage cell membranes and mitochondria in cells, indirectly through reactive oxygen species (ROS) and other radicals generated in irradiation. Tritium decay can directly cut chemical bonds of genomes or DNA strands. The risk peculiar to tritium is that if some hydrogen atoms which make up the genomes are replaced with tritium, the beta decay of the tritium into helium will cut off the chemical bonds of the genome.

Plants produce starch from water and carbon dioxide gas by using photosynthesis. Some of the hydrogen atoms in this starch can be replaced with tritium, forming organic tritium, which animals, plants and human beings absorb into their bodies over the long term, causing internal radiation.

IAEA ocean testing

An IAEA team observes as TEPCO subcontractors collect sea water samples near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

2. With reference to the tritium released by various nuclear facilities, reports indicate a number of findings including: an increased incidence of leukemia among those living around the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant; an increased incidence of infant leukemia around nuclear reprocessing plants all over the world; and an increased incidence of child cancers around nuclear power plants. Real damage has already occurred.

3. Tritium, even if diluted and dumped into the ocean, will become concentrated again through aspects of the ecosystem such as food chains. Furthermore, tritium will vaporize into tritium-containing moisture or hydrogen gas, only to return to the land and eventually circulate within the environment. The idea that dilution ensures safety has caused fatal blunders to be repeated in many environmental pollution cases in the past, the vital factor being the total quantity released into the environment.  Therefore, as far as environmental pollution problems are concerned, the only righteous and principled policy is to thoroughly confine and isolate radioactive materials or toxic substances from the ecosystem.

As tritium has a long half-life of 12 years, it destroys the environment over the long term.  Tritium is an isotope of hydrogen which constitutes not only most of the living body but also its genes, so tritium disposal via dilution cannot be safe. Thus, we strongly urge the Japanese government and the Nuclear Regulatory Authority never to dump tritium into the ocean.

Again, if you or your organization can support this resolution, please send your message and full contact details to Professor Yamada at: kosakuyamada@yahoo.co.jp.

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