BBC: Anxiety and anger over Fukushima nuclear waste water plan
A controversial plan by Japan to release treated waste water from the Fukushima nuclear plant has sparked anxiety and anger at home and abroad. Tessa Wong reports for BBC News.
In a nutshell:
On March 11, 2011, Japan's strongest earthquake ever struck the seabed and northeastern coast for six terrifying minutes. The tsunami that followed overtopped a sea wall and led to the meltdown of three of the six nuclear reactors that comprise the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant. Within a couple of days and each day since, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) has pumped in sea water to cool fuel rods, and subsequently stored the contaminated water in large tanks — more than 1,000 in fact. Tepco is now seeking permission to slowly discharge that water into the Pacific Ocean over the next 30 years.
"We've seen an inadequate radiological, ecological impact assessment that makes us very concerned that Japan would not only be unable to detect what's getting into the water, sediment and organisms, but if it does, there is no recourse to remove it... there's no way to get the genie back in the bottle," marine biologist Robert Richmond, a professor with the University of Hawaii, told the BBC's Newsday.
In the chaotic days following the tsunami, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) was roundly criticized for what was characterized as a failed response to the Fukushima disaster, in particular refusing to cool the rapidly overheating fuel rods with sea water until the Prime Minister intervened. It was later revealed that five years prior, in 2006, Tepco failed to disclose an internal report warning that a tsunami could overtop the plant's seawall, but an upgrade would cost $25 million. In the years since the accident, Tepco seems to have worked to regain the trust of a skeptical populace and the recent plan has the support of the Japanese government along with the blessings of the IAEA. Greenpeace is opposed, China is critical, South Koreans hate the idea and scientists are lined up on both sides of the issue.