The concentrated effort to safely decommission Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant which suffered meltdowns in the massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami, just got hit by an imminent deadline. The utility company operating Fukushima’s plant announced last Friday that they will run out of space to store massive amounts of treated but still-radioactive water in the next three years. This looming deadline adds pressure on the government and the public to reach a consensus on what to do with it.
According to The Associated Press, the plant has already accumulated more than 1 million tons of water in nearly 1,000 tanks and Tokyo Electric Power Co., intends to build more tanks that will accommodate an additional 1.37 million tons, which will reach their maximum capacity in the summer of 2022.
A government-commissioned panel has proposed a few possible courses of action but the most feasible one as of now is the controlled release of the contaminated water into the Pacific signaling a bleak reality for nuclear disasters in future.
Local fishermen and residents of the area complain that dumping the water would devastate the area’s fishing and agriculture industry, the AP reports. Other options considered by the panel which includes members of the International Atomic Energy Agency comprise vaporizing the radioactive water, long term storage and injecting it deep underground.
However, some experts do believe that the priority should be the feelings of the residents, not just the progress of decommissioning
University of Tokyo professor of disaster social science Naoya Sekiya told the AP, “When we talk about Fukushima’s reconstruction, the question is if we should prioritize the decommissioning at the expense of Fukushima people’s lives. The issue is not just about science.”