The Fukushima water release will follow international safety standards, attests a United Nations nuclear agency.

The plan is to release treated radioactive cooling water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea, probably beginning this spring or summer.

The water was used to cool the three damaged reactor cores before, during, and after the 2011 earthquake that caused the reactors to melt down. The water leaked into the basements of the reactor buildings, and had to be collected and treated. It is currently stored in about 1000 tanks, covering much of the plant’s site. The tanks hold nearly 1.4 million tons of water and are expected to reach capacity later this year if release is not begun.

It’s important for the tanks to be removed so that facilities can be built to decommission and demolish the plant. The water has been treated to remove most of the radioactivity, but tritium and a few other minor radionuclides remain.

Diluted in seawater, the radiation will be extremely negligible, but local fishing communities have fiercely opposed the release. Tritium does affect humans more when consumed in fish than otherwise, but the largest impact will be a public perception that fish from Japan could be dangerous. That perception has already done tangible damage to the fishing industries around the Sea of Japan since the 2011 quake and tsunami.

Gustavo Caruso, head of the International Atomic Energy task force of the United Nations, and his team have overseen the first of many inspections by the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority, and says he is confident they are committed to following all applicable safety standards.

Caruso says that a report on his team’s visit to Japan will be published soon, and a second visit will be scheduled to address any new questions the report raises, before the release is scheduled.

Photo: Shutterstock