Discharge of Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water by Japan is an epic mistake

Wan Lixin Lu Feiran
A huge number of people around the world will be exposed to hitherto unknown risks, as the radioactive pollutants are carried and spread by ocean currents.
Wan Lixin Lu Feiran
Discharge of Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water by Japan is an epic mistake

Protesters hold signs reading "Don't throw radioactive contaminated water into the sea!" as they take part in a rally outside the Tokyo Electric Power Company headquarters building in Tokyo on August 24, against the Japanese government's plan to release water from the crippled Fukushima-Daiichi power plant into the ocean.

By discharging nuclear-contaminated water into the sea, the Japanese government is outsourcing the consequences of its past mistakes to the rest of the globe.

"As a whole, this is a very irresponsible act from Japan," Chen Xinjun, a professor at Shanghai Ocean University, told Shanghai Daily in an online meeting.

That irresponsibility was evidenced in several aspects. Firstly, once the discharge began, the process was irreversible.

In addition, the consequences of the release were still unpredictable at this stage.

Chen added that the contaminated water was from one of the worst nuclear accidents in history, and was essentially different from the waste generated from a nuclear power station during normal operation.

"Accidents of different degrees would result in contaminated waste with a different makeup of radioactive elements, thus calling for different treatment," Chen cautioned.

While the scientific community has conducted some research concerning the properties of some radioactive elements, the long-term biological impacts of many elements with a longer half-life are yet unknown.

Speaking to Shanghai Daily, Jiang Feng, editor-in-chief of "Overseas Chinese Daily" in Japan, said that it is natural that surrounding countries would feel uneasy about the discharge.

"As a country of vital interest, China has the absolute right to publicize its concerns, even though the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) has approved the release of Fukushima Daiichi treated water," Jiang said. "The IAEA has their own standard, while we have our own. No one could tell what consequences may be caused in the long term."

Following the discharge, a huge number of people would be exposed to hitherto unknown risks, as the radioactive pollutants are carried and spread by ocean currents.

Discharge of Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water by Japan is an epic mistake

This aerial picture shows storage tanks (bottom) used for storing treated water at TEPCO's crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture on August 24.

According to a paper titled "The accelerated spread of Fukushima's waste water by ocean circulation," co-authored by Chen Gengxin, a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, while the north Pacific Ocean would be the worst affected region, ocean currents would carry the pollutants everywhere.

According to predictions based on the model proposed in the paper, it would take about one year before the pollutants reach the East China Sea in China.

Nor would the radioactive pollutants be confined merely to the surface of the sea, but would be spread throughout the oceans.

People can no longer afford to have any faith in Tokyo Electric Power Company, the nuclear power plants operator, for the worst nuclear accident in the world was a "profoundly man-made disaster," as concluded by the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, one year after the disaster.

The investigation commission alleged that the accident were foreseeable but the Tokyo Electric Power Company had not taken measures to meet the basic safety requirements. The investigation commission also said that TEPCO had a history of integrity issues, and had been plagued with innumerable problems since the accident in 2011.

For instance, during the accident, when a tsunami-induced power outage at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station disrupted the water supply used as a coolant, raising the spectre of a meltdown and explosion, the sensible approach was to release pressurized steam through a vent, piping radiation into the air. The company's failure to respond quickly led to a series of explosions. The subsequent spike in radiation prevented workers from being able to continue injecting water onto the overheated core fuels.

As early as June, 2002, well before the Fukushima disaster in 2011, Tokyo Electric was forced to reveal that for two decades it had faked hundreds of repair records at the Fukushima Daiichi plant and at several other reactors.

The Fukushima meltdown effectively debunked the myth of Japan's technological rigor.

As Japanese writer Haruki Murakami said in a speech after the disaster: "We set the stage, we committed the crime with our own hands, we are destroying our own lands, and we are destroying our own lives".

His appeal for Japan to acknowledge their failure of morals and ethical standards apparently fell on deaf ears.

By discharging the Fukushima contaminated water into the Pacific, Japan is making another mistake, on a grander scale, at the expense of the whole planet.

(Li Qian also contributed to the story.)

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