Currently, the Fukushima plant that suffered the 2011 earthquake remains in a state of emergency. Indeed, the storage capacity limits for radioactive water will reach saturation in almost a year. The company in charge of operating the plant now wants to dig a tunnel one kilometer long to evacuate this same water.
A tunnel to evacuate water away from fishing grounds
The region of Fukushima (Japan) is slowly recovering from the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. These include the soil decontamination work which at the end of 2019 was almost completed. However, the issue of radioactive water is still relevant today. It must be said that the incident led to the partial meltdown of three reactors at the plant, the result of which was the accumulation of more than 1.25 million tonnes of radioactive water.
In April 2021, the TEPCO company decided to discharge part of the contaminated water into the sea, by diluting it beforehand in order to reduce its tritium concentration. However, the urgency is still there, because the storage capacity limits will unfortunately be reached in the fall of 2022, as explained in an article in The Mainichi newspaper on August 24, 2021.
Recently, TEPCO said it wanted to dig a tunnel 1 km long with a diameter of 2.5 m in order to facilitate evacuation. This project aims to transport radioactive water far from fishing areas. These same areas had already been impacted by the first releases, which had aroused the anger of professionals in the sector. The tunnel should also prevent radioactive water from returning to the coast.
Credit: IAEA Imagebank / Flickr
The less bad of the solutions
TEPCO has assured that before it is evacuated, the water will be subjected to chemical decontamination. The latter should eliminate most of the radioactive material, in addition to the strontium and cesium of concern. Nevertheless, tritium – not very dangerous at low concentrations – will remain present. The water will still be diluted with large amounts of seawater to reduce the tritium concentration to less than 1,500 becquerels per liter. This quantity is quite similar to that which functional plants usually release into the environment.
For some specialists, the solution TEPCO has chosen poses an extremely low danger. It must be said that the quantities in question are lower than those before the disaster of 2011. Other experts stress that releasing radioactive water into the sea remains the least bad solution. Remember that TEPCO originally planned to evaporate water in the atmosphere. However, this process would cause the water to end up over the ocean and eventually fall back as precipitation.