21 Juillet 2017
July 20, 2017
TEPCO misleads on tritium dangers, threatens to dump contaminated water
Water contaminated with radionuclides, including tritium, and stored at the Fukushima nuclear site, could soon be dumped into the Pacific ocean. The water becomes contaminated with radionuclides while being used to constantly cool the three ruined nuclear reactors there. It is then stored in tanks -- 777,000 tons as of July 6 this year -- but storage space on the site is running out, a problem that had been foreseen. Recent news reports about TEPCO's plan touched off a firestorm of criticism from all corners of Japan's society.
Despite misleading news reports that tritium is relatively harmless, a number of scientific studies have shown that this is simply not true. A radioactive form of hydrogen, tritium is virtually impossible to filter. It will travel anywhere in the body if inhaled or ingested; is extremely mobile in the environment; can become organically bound and bioconcentrate, especially in aquatic life; and can collect to twice the concentration in fetal compared to maternal tissue. Clearly there is no guarantee, as TEPCO argues, that tritium will stay "dispersed" once released into Japan's coastal waters. TEPCO also claims that other radionuclides have been filtered out of the tank water, but there is no independent, transparent confirmation of this. Contaminated water from Fukushima continues to flow into the Pacific, also without proper accounting.