On August 24, radioactive water was discharged from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the Pacific Ocean. However, the issue has been clouded by politicization and misinformation, making it difficult for people to understand the actual facts. It is important to have a good-faith discussion about the level of risk that is acceptable for progress.
One of the misconceptions that has been spread is that the discharged water is different from regular nuclear wastewater. A diagram showing the difference between the two has further confused people. The reality is that the water goes through a treatment process called Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) before being diluted. ALPS successfully removes heavier radioactive elements from the water, but tritium remains and requires further dilution. Some people are upset that the testing is only looking for tritium and believe that more tests should be conducted. However, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has verified the results of the tests by conducting their own independent testing.
Critics also point to a disclaimer in the IAEA’s report, stating that it does not endorse any specific policy and takes no liability for the information provided. However, it is common for multilateral institutions not to recommend specific policies, as these decisions should be made by states. The IAEA’s role in this case is to assess and review the accuracy of the processes carried out by TEPCO, the company responsible for the nuclear power plant. The agency observes all processes and sends samples to different labs for independent testing.
The main question that the IAEA’s testing seeks to answer is whether testing the water in the same way as TEPCO yields the same results. According to the results of the IAEA and independent labs, the answer is yes. However, it is important to note that the IAEA’s role is to verify and validate, not endorse.
Some critics argue that the testing only covered a small percentage of the tank groups. While it is true that the specific testing targeted the tank group that is currently being discharged, the IAEA plans to verify TEPCO’s results for every tank group over the 30-year discharge period.
The real issue at hand is the level of acceptable risk. Nuclear energy, in general, faces public scrutiny due to high-profile catastrophes. However, it is important to acknowledge that all forms of progress involve some degree of risk. For instance, when we board a plane or drive a car, we accept a certain level of risk. The public’s demand for an unreasonably low level of risk in nuclear energy is influenced by the fear associated with past disasters.
It is also worth mentioning the skepticism surrounding the Japanese government and TEPCO, given their history. However, there is no evidence to suggest a conspiracy between the IAEA, TEPCO, and Japan. To believe otherwise without concrete evidence would be unreasonable.
Furthermore, it is clear that Japan is receiving diplomatic cover for this issue, which other countries may not receive. If it were China or Russia in a similar situation, Western governments would likely pressure them to stop regardless of the IAEA’s conclusions. This highlights the inequality in the application of diplomatic norms.
In conclusion, the criticisms leveled against Japan regarding the discharge of contaminated water from Fukushima are mostly exaggerated and misinformed. It is important to rely on reliable sources for information on this topic.