The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is grappling with a crisis as the actual amount of waste liquid scattered during an incident on October 25th is now believed to be several dozen times higher than initially announced by TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company). The incident occurred while a worker was cleaning contaminated water treatment equipment, resulting in the exposure of radioactive waste to two supervisors.
TEPCO initially announced that the amount of waste liquid that was scattered was about 100 milliliters after that a worker cleaning contaminated water treatment equipment at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was exposed to waste liquid containing radioactive substances. However the workers have revealed that the actual number is believed to be several dozen times higher.
On October 25th, while cleaning pipes at the contaminated water treatment facility at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, a hose that drains waste fluid containing radioactive materials into a tank came off, spilling waste fluid onto workers. Contamination was confirmed in two men in their 20s and 40s who were working as supervisors, and they were hospitalized and continued decontamination. As a result, on the 28th, the amount of radioactivity fell below a certain level, and the two were discharged from the hospital.
This revelation has heightened anxieties among workers, residents, and environmental groups, who are questioning the transparency and reliability of information provided by TEPCO. The incident follows a series of challenges faced by the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which has been dealing with the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
When the problem occurred, TEPCO estimated that approximately 100 milliliters of waste liquid had been sprayed from the hose, based on the amount of waste liquid left on the floor at the site, but at a press conference on the 30th, it was revealed that the amount was several liters, dozens of times that amount announced.
They re-estimated the situation based on testimonies from workers about how the waste liquid spewed out, as well as the area of the floor where the splatter remained. It turns out that the two were not required to wear waterproof raincoats, and TEPCO is considering revising the rules.
The fact that just by chance we discovered the truth is very alarming exactly like the fact that now we know that the amount of liquid scattered in the sea is ten times of what it was previously announced and therefore potentially more dangerous for the environment.
Among the numerous voices against the release on sea of the contaminated water from the Japanese nuclear power plant, The National Association of Marine Laboratories (NAML), an organization of more than 100 member laboratories, opposed in a position paper, Japan’s plan to release over 1.3 million tons of radioactively contaminated water.
This opposition is based on the fact that there is a lack of adequate and accurate scientific data supporting Japan’s assertion of safety. Furthermore, there is an abundance of data demonstrating serious concerns about releasing radioactively contaminated water.
According NALM the release of this contaminated water is a transboundary and transgenerational issue of concern for the health of marine ecosystems and those whose lives and livelihoods depend on them. The concern about the absence of critical data on the radionuclide content of each tank, the Advanced Liquid Processing System, which is used to remove radionuclides, and the assumption that upon the release of the contaminated wastewater, “dilution is the solution to pollution.
The underlying rationale of dilution ignores the reality of biological processes of organic binding, bioaccumulation, and bioconcentration, as well as accumulation in local seafloor sediments. Many of the radionuclides contained in the accumulated waste cooling water have half-lives ranging from decades to centuries, and their deleterious effects range from DNA damage and cellular stress to elevated cancer risks in people who eat affected marine organisms, such as clams, oysters, crabs, lobster, shrimp, and fish.
Additionally, the effectiveness of the Advanced Liquid Processing System in almost completely removing the over 60 different radionuclides present in the affected wastewater—some of which have an affinity to target specific tissues, glands, organs, and metabolic pathways in living organisms, including people—remains a serious concern due to the absence of critical data.
The supporting data provided by the Tokyo Electric Power Company and the Japanese Government are insufficient and, in some cases, incorrect, with flaws in sampling protocols, statistical design, sample analyses, and assumptions, which in turn lead to flaws in the conclusion of safety and prevent a more thorough evaluation of better alternative approaches to disposal.
A full range of approaches to addressing the problem of safely containing, storing, and disposing of the radioactive waste have not been adequately explored, and alternatives to ocean dumping should be examined in greater detail and with extensive scientific rigor.
NAML calls on the Government of Japan and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) scientists to more fully and adequately consider the options recommended by the Pacific Islands Forum’s Expert Panel. Public policy decisions, regulations, and actions must keep pace with and make use of relevant advancements in our scientific understanding of the environment and human health.
In this case, policy makers have not fully availed themselves of the available science and should do so before making any final decisions on releasing this contaminated water into the Pacific. NAML members are unified in our concern about use of the oceans as a dumping ground for radioactively contaminated water and other pollutants because such actions can negatively affect the long-term health and sustainability of our planet.
This development adds to the complex legacy of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster, reminding the world of the ongoing struggles to mitigate and manage the long-term consequences of nuclear accidents. The fallout from this incident is expected to have broader implications, prompting a reevaluation of safety standards not only at Fukushima Daiichi but also in the broader context of nuclear facilities globally. As investigations unfold, the international community will closely monitor the actions taken by TEPCO and regulatory bodies to address the fallout from this disturbing revelation.