FUKUSHIMA POWER PLANT
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Japan is all set to release water from the stricken Fukushima power plant into the Pacific Ocean from Thursday, 12 years after one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.
HOW THIS WATER GOT ACCUMULATED ?
- In March 2011 after an earthquake of 9 magnitude, a tsunami got triggered and flooded the FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI NUCLEAR POWER PLANT in Okuma and damaged its diesel generators.
- Due to the damaging of generators coolant supply to reactors at the facility got stopped. Tsunami also disabled the backup power systems.
- Thereafter radioactive materials got leaked from reactor pressure vessels and exploded in the facility’s upper levels and exposed themselves to the surrounding air, water, soil, and local population.
- The water that the Japanese government wants to flush from the plant was used to cool the reactors.
- The water contains radioactive isotopes from the damaged reactors and is thus itself radioactive containing trace amounts of tritium.
MORE ABOUT THE NEWS:
- Japan to flush 1.3million tonnes of Fukushima wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean this year. It was the part of a $76billion project to decommission the facility.
- Under the plan, TEPCO will transport water that has been treated to below releasable levels through a pipeline from the tanks to a coastal facility, where the water is diluted with seawater.
- The project received the Japanese cabinet’s approval in 2021 and could take three decades to complete.
- Many experts and officials in Japan and worldwide has been controversial for its suspected impact on the water, marine life, fisher’s livelihoods and other countries in the area.
- China, South Korea and Taiwan have expressed concerns over Japan’s plan.
- A representative of the Pacific Islands Forum has called it “simply inconceivable” based on their experience with “nuclear contamination”.
AFFECT ON BIO-DIVERSITY:
- There have been strong opposition from the Japanese public, neighbouring countries and scientists and researchers fraternity.
- Researchers have also called for more studies to understand the precise composition of each tank before it is flushed.
- The National Institute of Marine Laboratories published a position paper in December 2022 excoriating the plan: “The supporting data provided by the TEPCO and the Japanese Government are insufficient and in some cases incorrect with flaws in sampling protocols, statistical design, sample analyses and assumptions”.
- This water adds to the already nuclear polluted ocean.
- Experts expect the affected water to poison the fish; anyone who knows this is happening will or should avoid eating fish caught in the vicinity of the discharge point.
- This threatens the lives and livelihoods of islanders heavily reliant on marine resources such as inshore fisheries as well as pelagic fishes such as tuna. The former provides daily sustenance and food security, and the latter much needed foreign exchange via fishing licences for distant water fishing nation fleets for the island nations.
OTHER VIABLE ALTERNATIVES :
- According to Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which operates the Fukushima facility, has said that it has treated the water to remove most radioactive isotopes.
- There were other radionuclides in the water that the TEPCO’s treatment procedure could not entirely remove such as isotopes of ruthenium and plutonium.
- TEPCO is running out of room for the water tanks and nuclear plants around the world regularly release water containing trace amounts of radionuclides into large water bodies.
- Danger of trickle as smaller discharges will obviously help with the extent of the risk of cancers that might result.
- It will take 12-13 years to get the quantity halved by the process of radioactive decay and quantity of any other radioactive isotopes present in the water will also decrease in this time.
- But the Japanese government is determined that flushing the water would be the way forward, over storage and vapourisation.
- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials also said the discharge would be technically feasible.
- Japan has also sought the IAEA’s assistance to ensure the water release meets international safety standards, and to reassure local fishing and other communities as well as neighbouring countries that have sharply criticized the plan.
PROJECT & OTHER NATIONS
- South Korea has banned seafood imported from around Fukushima from 2013.
- US government voiced support for Japan’s plan to discharge the water.
- The accident reduced nuclear power’s contribution to electricity generation from 30% before 2011 to 5% in 2022.
- The accident also revived concerns about some existing nuclear power plants in India especially the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) facility in Tamil Nadu.
- Both India and China doubled down on their domestic commitments. India also plans to expand its nuclear power programme with Russia’s help.
SYLLABUS: MAINS, GS-3 ENVIRONMENT & URBANISATION
SOURCE: THE HINDU