Tokyo, 22 January 2019 – The nuclear water crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant has been compounded by multiple technical failures and flawed decision making driven by short term cost cutting by the Japanese government and TEPCO, a new Greenpeace Germany analysis concludes.
The report details how plans to discharge over 1 million tonnes of highly contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean was proposed by the same Government task force that ignored alternative options that would have avoided threatening further contamination of the ocean.
“The decision not to develop water processing technology that could remove radioactive tritium was motivated by short term cost cutting not protection of the Pacific ocean environment or the health and livelihoods of communities along the Fukushima coast,” said Kazue Suzuki, Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Japan. “We have raised the water crisis with the UN International Maritime Organization and firmly stand with local communities, especially fisheries, who are strongly opposed to any plans to discharge contaminated water into their fishing grounds.”
The report concludes that the water crisis remains unresolved, and will be for the foreseeable future. The only viable option to protect the environment and the communities along the Fukushima coast being long term storage for the contaminated water.
The discharge option for water containing high levels of radioactive tritium was recommended as least cost by the Government’s Tritiated Water Task Force and promoted by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA). The Task Force concluded in 2016 that “sea discharge would cost 3.4 billion yen (US$30 million) and take seven years and four months to complete. It concluded that this was cheapest and quickest of the five methods.” However, technical proposals for removing tritium were submitted to the same Government Task Force by multiple nuclear companies with estimated costs ranging from US$2-US$20 billion to US$50-US$180 billion depending on the technology used. These were dismissed as not viable but without detailed technical consideration.
TEPCO has claimed since 2013 that its ALPS technology would reduce radioactivity levels “to lower than the permissible level for discharge.” However, in September 2018 TEPCO admitted that the processing of over 800,000 tons of contaminated water in 1000 storage tanks, including strontium, had failed to remove radioactivity to below regulatory limits, including for strontium-90, a bone seeking radionuclide that causes cancer. TEPCO knew of the failure of the technology from 2013. The Greenpeace report details technical problems with the ALPS system.
The Fukushima Daiichi site, due its location, is subject to massive groundwater contamination which TEPCO has also failed to stop. Each week an additional 2-4000 tonnes of contaminated water is added to the storage tanks.
“The Japanese government and TEPCO set an objective of ‘solving’ the radioactive water crisis by 2020 – that was never credible. TEPCO has finally admitted that its ALPS technology has failed to reduce levels of strontium, and other hazardous radioactivity, to below regulatory limits,” said Shaun Burnie, nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany.
“The reality is there is no end to the water crisis at Fukushima, a crisis compounded by poor decision making by both TEPCO and the government. Discharging into the Pacific is the worst option and must be ruled out. The only viable option, and it’s not without risks, is the long term storage of this water in robust steel tanks over at least the next century, and the parallel development of water processing technology.”
Greenpeace offices are calling on the government and TEPCO to urgently reassess options for the long term management of highly contaminated water at Fukushima Daiichi. Paramount in any future decision making should be the protection of the environment and the interests of the those in the front line – the communities and fishing industries of Fukushima’s Pacific coast.
Photos and video can be accessed here
“TEPCO Water Crisis” briefing can be accessed here
Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist, Greenpeace Germany, [email protected] – +49 151 6432 0548
Greenpeace International Press Desk, [email protected], phone: +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)
thank you for your article and I was a bit impressed with your writing and currently I am teaching English in South Korea. I am priniting your article as a material to use in my class. Thank you for giving us useful information. Thanks
I'm 14 years old student from South Korea. Even though English is not my mother language, I tried to understand your article and writing my opinion in English. Firstly, thank you very much for letting us know the situation on Fukushima. This article was so important for me and it makes me annoyed to Japan. Japan is planning to release the radioactive water in Pacific Ocean. so it can give a big damage to Korea. I don't know why they are planning to release this terrible and yucky things because it will be a very big effect for them, too. But Greenpeace tries to stop Japan to release so it will be very good for my country Korea and the ocean creatures. I want to say thank you to Greenpeace for spreading facts about Fukushima and trying to save my country(including other countries) and many creatures. This article shows how terrible this accident is. Also, it tells us many important things that weren't on the TV news or newspapers.
The Abe administration is a major disaster in the world.
Would it be of any use to use oil exploitation technology to drill vertical shafts in and around Fukushima to sequester radioactive water and soil? We drill 18 to 26 thousand feet in the Permian basin and many times when a well is played out they fill it with produced water which is some of the nastiest stuff there is, with no impact on our local water quality, and agriculture. Being that the water and soil is heavy would not the radio activity naturally gravitate toward the core rendering it inert to surface dwellers? I am obviously not a scientist, but am concerned none the less, and feel that all options should be considered before the situation becomes impossible to contain. Thanks for your time.
Fukushima Daiichi is Japan's Hanford, and, like Hanford, will remain dangerously radioactive virtually forever.