Tritium contamination of growing stockpile of radioactive water leads to outcry against release to Pacific at Fukushima Daiichi

Gray and silver storage tanks filled with radioactive wastewater are sprawling over the grounds of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Kyodo News, via Associated Press.In an article entitled "Flow of Tainted Water Is Latest Crisis at Japan Nuclear Plant," the New York Times has reported that continuing leaks of groundwater into the rubblized Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is causing a flood of radioactively contaminated water requiring a sprawling -- and ever growing -- complex of water storage tanks.

As the New York Times reports:

'...But the biggest problem, critics say, was that Tepco and other members of the oversight committee appeared to assume all along that they would eventually be able to dump the contaminated water into the ocean once a powerful new filtering system was put in place that could remove 62 types of radioactive particles, including strontium.

The dumping plans have now been thwarted by what some experts say was a predictable problem: a public outcry over tritium, a relatively weak radioactive isotope that cannot be removed from the water.

Tritium, which can be harmful only if ingested, is regularly released into the environment by normally functioning nuclear plants, but even Tepco acknowledges that the water at Fukushima contains about 100 times the amount of tritium released in an average year by a healthy plant...

...The public outcry over the plans to dump tritium-tainted water into the sea — driven in part by the company’s failure to inform the public in 2011 when it dumped radioactive water into the Pacific — was so loud that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe personally intervened last month to say that there would be “no unsafe release.”

Meanwhile, the amount of water stored at the plant just keeps growing.

“How could Tepco not realize that it had to get public approval before dumping this into the sea?” said Muneo Morokuzu, an expert on public policy at the University of Tokyo who has called for creating a specialized new company just to run the cleanup. “This all just goes to show that Tepco is in way over its head.”...'

It should be pointed out that tritium is not a "relatively weak radioactive isotope," but rather a relatively powerful one, once incorporated into the human body. Tritium is a clinically proven cause of cancer, birth defects, and genetic damage.

It must also be corrected that ingestion is not the only pathway for tritium incorporation -- inhalation, and even absorption through the skin, are hazardous exposure pathways.


Remembering Chernobyl, 27 years on. "Life" in the exclusion zone.

"Most of the people who live in the villages around the Zone have diseases caused by radiation. Most of them are old, and their level of mortality is really high." So writes photographer, Arthur Bondar, based in Kiev, Ukraine, who started to visit Chernobyl in 2008, and has returned frequently in the past five years to photograph the villages and the people living near the exclusion zone. He found intense suffering and a resignation to the inevitable fate of living in a highly radioactive area. Read more and view Bondar's photos.


Japanese court rejects case demanding evacuation of children

A court in Sendai, Japan, has ruled that the city of Koriyama has no legal obligation to evacuate its children even though it acknowledged that radiation levels in the Fukushima prefecture city exceed levels deemed safe prior to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor meltdowns. The decision leaves families burdened with the expense of self-evacuating. A lawyer for the Koriyma parents and activists who brought the suit declared the decision unfairly victimizes children who had "absolutely no responsibility" for the nuclear disaster. Children who should be enjoying carefree childhoods are now instead subjected to the fears and realities of radiation exposure and the possibility of cancer manifesting later in life (see picture). The ruling can be appealed. Koriyama is located about 40 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power reactors. Read more.


A plea for the evacuation of Fukushima's children


Boxer calls NRC "beyond irresponsible" as agency buckles on safety at San Onofre

From CNS: Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Wednesday blasted a preliminary finding by Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff that restarting a unit at the idled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (near San Diego, CA) would not present significant safety hazards. 

Officials with Southern California Edison, the plant's majority owner and operator, have asked for permission to operate the plant's Unit 2 reactor at 70 percent beginning June 1. The utility wants to run the unit at partial power for five months, then shut it down for an inspection of steam pressure tubes. 

Boxer and Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass, sent a letter to the NRC this week demanding that a comprehensive investigation of the plant be completed before any units are permitted to operate. They also said full public hearings should be held before a decision is made. 

"The NRC staff proposal, which could pave the way for the restart of the San Onofre nuclear power plant before the investigation of the crippled plant are completed, is dangerous and premature," Boxer said in response to the commission staff's preliminary finding. "It makes absolutely no sense to even consider taking any steps to reopen San Onofre until these investigations look at every aspect of reopening the plant, given the failure of the tubes that carry radioactive water. 

"In addition, the damaged plant is located in an area at risk of earthquake and tsunami," she said. "With 8 million people living within 50 miles of this plant, the staff proposal is beyond irresponsible." Read more.