According to Japanese public broadcaster, NHK, on Monday, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) began releasing irradiated seawater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant through an underwater tunnel that has been built to remove the contaminated water by carrying it out to sea. The report indicated that the tunnel will be transporting 60,000 tons of contaminated water by Tuesday afternoon.
The water removal process was carried out in secret on Monday as the announcement of Japan's unilateral decision to remove more than 1.3 million metric tons of treated but still partially radioactive water by dumping it into the Pacific Ocean was met with pushback from other countries in the area including China and other Pacific Island nations. While civil society groups from the prefectures near the nuclear site, like Fukushima, Miyagi, and Iwate, also protested the decision.
Seawater has continuously been pumped into the power plant to cool the heavily damaged and highly radioactive reactor cores since a catastrophic earthquake and subsequent tsunami disabled the facility in 2011. Once no longer used for cooling, the water has been stored in large reservoirs on site where it has been treated but remains contaminated with some amount of radiation.
Construction of the tunnel was completed in April and once filled with water Tuesday afternoon, it will be used to transport the contaminated water to a location approximately 1 kilometer offshore where it will be dispersed into the ocean.
Once completed, enough water would be released to fill 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The release of the irradiated water is just one of several steps being taken by Japanese authorities in the process of fully dismantling and decontaminating the nuclear reactors. Officials have estimated that it will take 30 to 40 years to safely decommission all 4 of the reactors at the facility.
Subscribe to our evening newsletter to stay informed during these challenging times!!