In March 2011, a 9.3 magnitude earthquake occurred east of Sendai, Tohoku, Japan. The Japanese government announced that 12,321 were killed and 5,347 were missing as of April 5, 2011. Since then, the number of deaths and disappearances has reached 20,000, with the number of refugees reaching 100,000. This disaster did not end up as just a natural disaster in Japan. A massive tsunami hit the concrete outer wall of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, sparking a fire in a nuclear fuel storage facility. In the end, the reactor’s hydrogen explosion led to radiation leaks along Japan’s coast. Not only the closer countries such as China and South Korea worried about this, but also the whole world began to feel concerned about this phenomenon.
In 2019, eight years after since the earthquake, radiation in Japan is still mentioned as a concern around the world. According to the Tokyo Health and Safety Research Center, four out of 15 soil samples in Tokyo had more than 40,000 Bec querels (Bq/kg) per meter of radioactive material. In one of the four soil sample, 77,000Bq/kg of material were detected, which is about twice as much as the standard criteria. Immediately after the 2011 accident, 430Bq/kg of cesium was detected, but in 2015, the figure rose to 500Bq/kg. In 2017, 160Bq/kg of cesium was detected, about 65 times higher than the amount in the soil in Seoul.
Japan’s radiation levels are getting worse, and in recent years, Japanese politicians have been calling for the release of contaminated water from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant off Osaka. It appears that Japanese government is determined to take advantage of the Tokyo Olympics, which will be held in a year, to do something to revive Fukushima. The Japanese government argues that there will be nothing wrong with the environment if the contaminated water gets diluted in the ocean. Now that Koizumi has taken office, and he is expected to be a young politician who would set the date for the Abe administration to deal with the Fukushima issue. Although he is against releasing the contaminated water, he has no solution for the problem at all. If the Japanese government permits the discharge of contaminated water, Koizumi probably can do nothing about it.
Last year, the Tokyo Electric Power Corporation (TEPCO), the operator of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and the Ministry of Economy and Industry analyzed the contaminated water from the Multi-Nuclide Removal Equipment (ALPS). They found that 80 percent of the 890,000 tons of contaminated water exceeded the threshold. In some tanks, 20,000 times more than the standard level of radiation was detected. Lee Jung-yoon, head of Korea’s Nuclear Power Safety and Future CEO, said that even three large LNG tankers can afford to pack enough polluting water tanks, Japan is trying to pollute the world’s environment only to save money. Japanese Prime Minister insists that radioactive water is under control, and that he will prove its safety by providing the Olympic village with agricultural and fisheries products, including those from the Fukushima region, during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. On the other hand, Japan’s Greenpeace warns that radioactive water is increasing by 2,000 to 4,000 tons a week, and that the Pacific Rim countries are at great risk of radioactive contamination. Japan’s claim that it is environmentally stable is rather hard to believe, and it seems that more specific alternatives are needed–such as safe storing or cleaning up polluting water rather than discharging it into the sea.
Seok Min-ju, Junior reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
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