The Japanese government’s claim that it will run out of room to store radiation-contaminated water at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in two years is not true, and is simply an attempt to justify discharging polluted water into the Pacific Ocean, a Greenpeace International member said yesterday.
Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany who has conducted long-term surveys in Japan, was invited by Greenpeace Taiwan to talk about the issue at a news conference in Taipei.
An earthquake and a tsunami in March 2011 caused the plant’s reactor fuel rods to melt and large amounts of radioactive-contaminated water was released into the Pacific.
As of Oct. 22, more than 1 million cubic meters of processed polluted water was stored at the treated water storage tank, while the current storage capacity is nearly 1.1 million cubic meters, Burnie said.
Tokyo Electric Power Co in August said the tank would reach full capacity by the summer of 2022 and that there is no room for expansion at the site, he said.
However, the company in a meeting in September said that land is available to build additional tanks, Burnie added.
The claim of insufficient capacity is just an excuse to cover the Japanese government’s political agenda, Burnie said, adding that Tokyo has the option of storing contaminated water for a longer period.
If Japan approves the discharge, radioactive tritium and other radionuclides in the water will likely enter the East China Sea, and eventually the waters surrounding Taiwan through the subtropical gyre, he said.
However, even if the Japanese government decides to discharge polluted water into the ocean, it would not be able to carry out the plan immediately, as it might take years to build outflow pipelines, he said.
In addition to protests from local fishers, especially those living along Japan’s Tohoku coast, the Japanese government would face strong pressure from the international community for discharging polluted water, he said, adding that it is a long-term problem that should be approached more cautiously.
The Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster has led to catastrophic results, and the Taiwanese government should be lauded for making the “brave and correct” decision to phase out nuclear power plants, Burnie said.
Taiwan should call on the Japanese government, via diplomatic or non-governmental channels, to shoulder its responsibility as a Pacific nation and not discharge radiation-contaminated water into the sea, National Nuclear Phase-out Action Platform spokesperson Tsuei Su-hsin (崔愫欣) said.
As Taiwan generates less than 10 percent of its electricity from nuclear power — much lower than the ratio in Japan before the 2011 disaster, it should persist in its goal of phasing out all nuclear power plants by 2025, Tsuei said.
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