Japan's nuclear waste contains some dangerous contaminants, which can cause reproductive impairment, cellular damage, genetic injury, and cancers.
A prominent U.S. marine conservation biologist Rick Steiner on Wednesday said that "not one drop" of Japan's Fukushima radioactively contaminated water should be released until the world is convinced that the water has been treated to remove nuclides to non-detectable levels.
"Prior to any marine discharge, the world deserves to know exactly what radioisotopes are in the wastewater, in what concentrations, and that all of the water has been treated with the best available technology methods to remove all radionuclides to non-detectable levels," he stressed.
The Japanese government announced last week it had decided to discharge contaminated radioactive wastewater in Fukushima Prefecture into the sea. As of Dec. 31, 2019, 73 percent of the nuclear wastewater exceeded Japan's discharge standards after treatment by an advanced liquid processing system (ALPS) capable of removing most contaminants, according to a report from an organization researching the treatment of wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear accident.
Steiner also recalled that the Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator handling wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear accident, “have been somewhat non-transparent with the Fukushima issue.”
He said Japan's planned release is a "spectacularly bad idea" for several reasons. It would expose marine ecosystems across the North Pacific to risk; it is unnecessary, as the long-term storage option is reasonable and prudent; it is likely illegal under international law, and it is exceptionally unethical.
Today, the Japanese government decided to dump over 1.23 million tons of Fukushima radioactive waste water stored into the Pacific Ocean. This decision completely disregards the human rights and interests of the people in Fukushima, wider Japan, and the Asia-Pacific region. [1/3] pic.twitter.com/ePREo20xup— Greenpeace (@Greenpeace) April 13, 2021
"We can no longer accept dumping hazardous industrial wastes into our one global ocean… As far as ecological risk, so far we simply don't know exactly what radionuclides and in what concentrations are in the tanks, but we know there is radioactive cesium-137, tritium, Carbon-14, Cobalt-60, Strontium-90, Iodine-129, and over 50 other nuclides. Some of this may have been removed, some not," Steiner noted.
The international community should convene an international scientific and technological commission, agreed by the Japanese government, to provide independent scientific oversight of all aspects of the Fukushima cleanup, including the wastewater issue. This international group should operate independently of the International Atomic Energy Agency, he added.
According to Steiner, if the contaminated water is held for another 15 to 30 years, the radioactive tritium will decay by 50 percent to 75 percent. This will give time to treat the contaminated water effectively.
"The ecological impact of this sort of chronic release of radioactive waste into the North Pacific may be considerable," he warned, explaining that some of the contaminants will enter living organisms, and some of these can cause reproductive impairment, cellular damage, genetic injury, and cancers.