- In 2011, a tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake flooded three reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
- Authorities set up an exclusion zone which continued to be expanded as radiation leaked from the plant, forcing more than 150,000 people to evacuate from the area.
On August 24, Japan started releasing treated radioactive water from the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean.
In 2011, a tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake flooded three reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
Authorities set up an exclusion zone which continued to be expanded as radiation leaked from the plant, forcing more than 150,000 people to evacuate from the area.
Japan has been collecting and storing the contaminated water in tanks for more than a decade, but space is running out.
Over 1.34 million tonnes of water has accumulated since the 2011 tsunami destroyed the plant.
The Japanese government said that releasing the water was necessary as part of the process of decommissioning the plant, which sits on the country's east coast. The decommissioning had already started.
Maintaining the plant and the release, which will continue for the next 30 years has already cost Japan trillions of Yen.
The big question, however, is how safe is the water?
As a result of the ongoing debate, the Embassy of Japan in Nairobi on August 29 held a media briefing to shed more light on the release of the treated water into the ocean.
According to the Spokesperson of Embassy of Japan in Kenya plant operators Tepco used the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), to remove most of the radioactive contamination.
The process removed more than 30 radioactive substances save for Tritium, which cannot be removed from the water.
Tritium is similar to hydrogen and it emits very weak radiation that can be prevented by a sheet of paper and can be excreted by water in case it enters the body.
“The level of the total amount of tritium at the time of discharge is below 22 trillion Becquerels (Bq) per year, which is lower than the amount of discharge from many nuclear power plants and other facilities in Japan and abroad,” said the spokesperson.
The decision, according to spokesman was made in 2021 and was subject to necessary approvals.
It would also be done with three key considerations;
“Before discharge, Purify nuclides other than tritium by ALPS treatment, and secondly reduce the concentration of tritium to 1,500 Becquerels per litre (Bq/L), which is far below the regulatory standards of 60,000Bq/L through dilution (more than 100 times) with seawater (less than 1/100 of the regulatory standard for other than tritium)."
Becquerels per litre – Is a measure of radioactivity.
The national safety standard for Japan is 60,000Bq/L.
The spokesman added that monitoring of the status before and after discharge would also continue.
“This assessment and review would be done by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and third-party organizations,” he said.
The safety of the water was approved by the IAEA after conducting five review missions in a period of two years, resulting in six reports.
The reports affirmed that the approach to the discharge of ALPS-treated water into the sea and other activities by Tepco, NRA and the Japanese government were consistent and relevant to international safety standards.
“The IAEA has concluded that the discharge of ALPS-treated water will have a negligible radiological impact on people and the environment,” the spokesman said.
“IAEA is committed to engaging with Japan before, during and after the treated discharge occurs. Additional review and monitoring activities are envisaged that will continue and which will provide additional transparency and reassurance to the international community.”
The process started in April 2021 when Japan announced its basic policy on the disposal.
In June of the same year, Terms of Reference on the Safety Review of the ALPS treated water was signed between Japan and the IAEA.
The final comprehensive report with conclusions was handed to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in July 2023.
The spokesperson noted that the ALPS-treated water despite containing tritium, it has little impact on the human body, compared to the impact of natural radiation at 1/70,000 to 1/1,000,000.
The same applies to plants and animals at 1/1,000,000 to 1/3,000,000.
While the release has led to protests from activists and certain countries neighbouring Japan, Tepco insists that the water is safe, after the first batch of the discharge.
The firm said seawater samples taken on Thursday afternoon showed radioactivity levels were well within safe limits.
"We confirmed that the analysed value is equal to the calculated concentration and that the analysed value is below 1,500 Bq/L," Tepco spokesman told a news conference.
The results according to the spokesman were similar to the previous simulation and sufficiently below the safety limit.
The spokesperson said Tepco will continue with daily analysis for the next 30 days just to be certain.
The embassy added that the tests could continue even beyond the initial 30 days.