Chinanews.com, Beijing, April 13th. Title: "One loose and one tight" behind Japan's sewage discharge into the sea
China News Service reporter Zhang Huandi and Lu Shaowei
On April 13, the Japanese government announced its formal decision to discharge the sewage from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the sea. Once the matter was made public, it immediately caused an uproar.
"A row of them" seems to "easily solve" a long-standing problem for the Japanese government, but the potential harm of nuclear sewage to the global environment and human health has made the Japanese people and other countries nervous.
Pollution discharge into the sea has been planned for a long time
Pollution discharge into the sea has been planned for a long time
On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred in northeastern Japan and triggered a huge tsunami. Affected by both the earthquake and the tsunami, a large amount of radioactive material leaked from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which caused the most serious incident since the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Soviet Union. Serious nuclear accident.
After a long fire-fighting and repair operation, the leakage of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant was basically suppressed, but a difficult problem remained-nuclear waste water.
On April 13, the Japanese government officially decided that the nuclear sewage from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant will be discharged into the sea after being filtered and diluted.
The picture shows Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (first from left) attending a cabinet meeting.
The Fukushima nuclear power plant is near the sea and the terrain is low. The huge explosion caused by the tsunami destroyed the reactor shell, so sea water continuously poured into the reactor from the cracks.
The nuclear power plant is too close to the sea to prevent the influx of seawater and groundwater by artificial means.
Therefore, in order to prevent the highly radioactive seawater from flowing into the Pacific Ocean and polluting the environment, it is necessary to continuously pump the seawater away and make special containers for storage.
In addition, in order to cool the reactor, it is necessary to continuously inject water into it, and the continuous cooling water produced is also a large number.
The storage of these highly radioactive nuclear waste waters must be cautious. This not only means that Japan has to consume a lot of financial and material resources, but also has to allocate land specifically for the construction of storage facilities.
Faced with this situation, the Japanese government began to find another way.
Sending it into a boiler for evaporation, discharging into a depth of 2500 meters underground, electrolyzing and then discharging into the atmosphere are all previously proposed schemes.
But in the end, the Japanese government set its sights on the vast ocean.
As early as 2015, Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company discharged purified groundwater extracted from the surrounding areas of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and other places into the sea.
According to the Nikkei, on September 10, 2019, Japanese Minister of the Environment Yoshiaki Harada threw a "blockbuster" at a press conference held on the eve of his resignation.
He said: "In my impression, there is only one way to discharge it into the sea." This is also the first time that a Japanese government official has publicly admitted considering discharging nuclear sewage into the sea.
Japanese media claimed that Yoshiaki Harada's move was to pass the responsibility to the next.
The successor, Shinjiro Koizumi, faced tremendous pressure as soon as he took office. He responded that the issue of nuclear sewage treatment was not within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Environment under his governance, and apologized for Harada Yoshiaki's speech.
One year later, in August, the Japanese government held a public hearing and asked representatives of various parties in Japan how to deal with the Fukushima nuclear wastewater.
At the meeting, most representatives made clear the plan for "discharging pollutants into the sea".
From April to October 2020, the Japanese government invited 43 representatives from 29 groups to listen to their opinions seven times, and held a cabinet meeting in October to continue discussing the issue, and finally planned to dilute the sewage and discharge it into the Pacific.
But then due to pressure from all parties, the implementation of the sewage plan was shelved.
On March 23 this year, Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshi Kajiyama and IAEA Director General Grossi held a video conference to exchange views on the treatment of Fukushima nuclear sewage.
On April 13, Japan formally decided to start discharging nuclear sewage into the sea at least two years later.
Data map: Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan on February 13.
Years of worries flow into the sea
Years of worries flow into the sea
Why is Japan eager to discharge nuclear sewage into the sea at the risk of environmental pollution?
In fact, there is a very realistic consideration: there is no place to install it.
For nuclear waste, which is extremely harmful to humans and the environment, it must be stored in a sparsely populated location.
The original site of the nuclear power plant, which has been reduced to rubble, is the best construction site.
However, the above-ground area of nuclear power plants is ultimately limited.
According to a 2020 report by the Yomiuri Shimbun, the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant now generates up to 170 tons of nuclear waste water per day, and is expected to reach the upper limit of 1.37 million tons of built storage tanks by September 2022.
According to Kyodo News Agency, as of March this year, the nuclear waste water in storage has reached 1.25 million tons.
Faced with such a dilemma, the Japanese government urgently needs a solution, either to build more storage tanks elsewhere, or to find other technical means to treat nuclear waste water.
However, for an island country like Japan, it is difficult to find a large sparsely populated area to store nuclear waste water, so it is relatively the most economical way to find technical means to save money and manpower.
So for the Japanese government, is it the most feasible way to discharge from the ocean?
it's not true.
The Japanese civil organization "Nuclear Energy Citizens' Committee" once proposed that "using large storage tanks for storage on land" or "solidifying treatment with mortar" is the best solution to the problem of nuclear waste water.
Japanese media also pointed out that there are a large number of uninhabitable areas around the Fukushima nuclear power plant due to excessive radiation levels that can be used to build new storage tanks.
Internationally, the treatment of radioactive nuclear waste is relatively consistent, either by placing it in a container and burying it underground, or putting a sealed container with nuclear waste on the seabed below 4000 meters.
And burying nuclear waste in a permanent repository is currently internationally recognized as the safest way to dispose of nuclear waste.
However, this safest method of processing costs a lot of money.
Since 1983, the U.S. Department of Energy has spent approximately US$6 billion to build the country’s first nuclear waste disposal site, and plans to spend at least US$50 billion to improve and expand the disposal site.
After the "sarcophagus" of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was damaged, the Ukrainian government, with the support of the European Bank for Reconstruction, spent about 1.5 billion euros to rebuild the new bunker in 7 years and put it into use in 2019.
In Japan, the total number of nuclear waste storage tanks has exceeded 300,000, and nearly 10,000 are added every year.
The Japanese government invests nearly 600 million U.S. dollars in this project every year.
This shows that for the Japanese government, discharging pollutants into the sea is not necessarily the most feasible plan, but it must be the most time-saving, labor-saving, and money-saving "shortcut".
Some analysts pointed out that the issue of nuclear sewage has not been effectively resolved under the powerful Abe cabinet, and for the current cabinet of Yoshihide Suga, it has turned a blind eye to all kinds of risks and "a row into the sea to relieve one's worries." This can only be done for ease of illustration.
Data map: The nuclear sewage storage tank of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan on February 13.
Endless global worries
Endless global worries
Nuclear sewage contains a variety of harmful substances, once discharged into the sea, it will spread to the world at an extremely fast speed.
In February 2020, the Japanese government's committee responsible for dealing with nuclear sewage issues published a report.
According to the report, the tritium contained in nuclear sewage discharged into the sea has relatively little impact on human health.
However, there is more than one kind of harmful substance in nuclear sewage.
In 2019, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in the United States stated that nuclear sewage contains radioactive elements such as iodine-129, which can cause thyroid cancer, and strontium-90 and ruthenium-106, which can cause leukemia.
The non-governmental organization "Greenpeace" also pointed out that the radioactive isotope carbon-14 and other radioactive substances in the Fukushima nuclear sewage are too high, and there is a potential danger of damaging human DNA.
A German marine scientific research institute conducted a computer modeling of the Fukushima nuclear sewage discharge. The results showed that within 57 days of the sewage being discharged into the sea, the radioactive sewage will spread to most of the Pacific Ocean; three years later, the United States and Canada waters Will be contaminated.
In view of the worries about nuclear pollution, as early as a few years ago, when Japan proposed the "discharge into the sea" plan, it was strongly opposed by the Japanese people and the international community.
Since then, the international community has paid close attention to Japan's actions in handling this matter.
The strongest opposition in Japan is the local residents of Fukushima Prefecture and Japanese fisheries workers.
They agreed that this would undermine the local and fishery industry’s efforts to regain their reputation over the years. Other countries would further restrict the export of aquatic products from surrounding areas and Japan, and it would also have unpredictable impacts on the health of local people.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has also repeatedly criticized the Japanese government's plan, stating that the government should listen more to the voices of the people.
On the eve of the Japanese government’s official decision, a number of citizen groups in the country submitted 64,000 signatures from 88 countries and regions, including Japan, on April 12, opposing the discharge of nuclear sewage into the sea.
A large number of Japanese people gathered in front of the Prime Minister’s residence holding slogans such as “Don’t discharge radioactive sewage into the ocean” and “Against the discharge of nuclear waste water.” They demanded the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company to take responsibility and not make a decision to discharge nuclear waste water. .
The international environmental organization "Greenpeace" urged Japan to make a cautious decision.
Jennifer Morgan, the director-general of the organization, said that the Japanese government "rationalized" the discharge of nuclear sewage "very terrible."
Kazuki Suzuki, director of the climate and energy program of the "Greenpeace" Japan Office, said that Japan has the technology and conditions to control the risk of nuclear radiation proliferation to a minimum, but has chosen the most cost-effective way.
A spokesperson for the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs commented on the 12th that it is difficult to accept Japan’s decision to discharge nuclear sewage to the sea without adequate coordination. This move may directly or indirectly affect the safety of South Korean people and the surrounding environment.
On April 9, 12, and 13, the spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to the issue of Japanese nuclear sewage discharge three times.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that Japan’s approach is extremely irresponsible and will seriously damage international public health and safety and the vital interests of people in neighboring countries.
Although the Japanese government announced its decision to discharge nuclear sewage into the sea, it is still at least two years away from the actual implementation.
Japanese party elections are relatively frequent, and the change of party leader will directly affect the choice of prime minister.
Therefore, in the changing political situation of Japan, it is not surprising that any changes have occurred.
Does the Japanese government really want to risk the world's disgrace in spite of the waves of opposition at home and abroad, or does it still need to wait and see what happens?
In the face of opposition and condemnation at home and abroad, I hope that the Japanese government can truly shoulder its responsibilities.
As the saying goes, "You can get melons by sowing melons, and you can get beans by sowing beans." We must not be blinded by momentary benefits, and thus plant a bigger disaster.