How will the contaminated water from nuclear power plants affect us?

Ocean discharge of contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant is expected to begin two years later
Ocean discharge of contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant is expected to begin two years later

The Japanese government finally decided to release the water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, seeing the attention of neighboring countries over the discharge of contaminated water. This raises concerns as contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant is expected to be discharged into the sea in two years.

The problem is that the polluted water discharged in this way can not only stay in the Japanese sea but also flow to the coast of Korea. In fact, according to a simulation that predicted the movement path of cesium, a radioactive material last year by the Helmholtz Institute of Germany, it reached the sea area of ​​Jeju Island 200 days after discharge and reached the coast of the East Sea in 280 days.

What would happen if radioactive materials contained in contaminated water were pushed to the coast of Korea? I hate to think about it, but experts say that for the health and safety of the people, scientific countermeasures must be prepared before Japan actually releases it.

Ocean discharge of contaminated water at the Fukushima nuclear power plant two years later

What the Japanese government has decided to release into the sea is water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Water is used to cool the nuclear fuel melted during the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Up to now, up to 180 tons of radioactive contaminated water has been generated per day.

It is known that contaminated water contains various radioactive substances. Initially, the Japanese government has declared that there will be no problems with the use of a multi-nuclide removal system (ALPS), a device that can filter various radioactive materials from contaminated water.

ALPS is a purification device that can remove radioactive substances other than tritium. Tritium is a radioactive substance in the cooling water of nuclear power plants, and when it enters the body, it can push out normal hydrogen in the body and cause genetic modification.

However, ALPS does not completely remove all radioactive material. In fact, Japanese media also reported that even after purifying contaminated water with ALPS, radioactive materials such as ruthenium and strontium cannot be removed significantly.

As the Japanese government is aware of this problem, contaminated water has been stored in a water tank installed on the site of a nuclear power plant without processing it until now. However, it is expected to reach saturation by the summer of next year due to insufficient land to install more water tanks.

So, why is the Japanese government trying to dump potentially dangerous polluted water into the sea? In fact, there are various types of methods to treat contaminated water, such as using soil such as stratum injection and underground burial, or applying heat such as water vapor emission, in addition to ocean discharge.

However, both methods of using soil and methods of applying heat are expensive. On the other hand, the method of discarding contaminated water in the sea is the cheapest and most convenient method among these methods. In the end, it can be seen that the Japanese government decided to discharge contaminated water in the ocean because of its economic feasibility.

Limits on purification of contaminated water with a multi-nuclide removal device

The Japanese government has long stated that it will purify contaminated water, dilute it with seawater, meet emission standards, and then discharge it to the sea to treat contaminated water. The Japanese government's position that this treatment will not affect the marine environment, but the Japanese fishing industry and civic groups are strongly opposed to this.

The reason why Japanese fisheries and civic groups are rebelling is that tritium is also a problem, but contaminated water contains various radioactive substances in addition to tritium.

In the case of tritium, the intensity of beta (β) radiation emitted when it decays is very weak. Therefore, it is expected that it will not have much effect on the human body, but if tritium enters the cell nucleus and binds to it, it may be a fatal risk factor.

When tritium replaces existing hydrogen in the cell nucleus, beta radiation is released from here, destroying DNA, and tritium itself may turn into helium. Helium has physical properties that do not stay as a component of DNA, so there is a high possibility that the part that was bound by tritium will be destroyed.

In addition to tritium, dozens of radioactive substances such as ruthenium and strontium in contaminated water are also potential hazards. Of course, some of them will be purified through ALPS, but experts say it is not an easy task to completely filter out as many as 62 radioactive substances.

Discharging contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea is expected to damage only neighboring countries such as Korea and China, so other countries have not responded much. However, scientists point out that in the long run, it could seriously harm everyone in the world.

According to a paper published in Marine Science, an international academic journal in the field of oceanography in 2018, by researchers at the University of Kanazawa and Fukushima University in Japan, radioactive material leaked into the sea after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant accident flowed into the coast of the Korean Peninsula, including the East Sea. Revealed.

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