“Tritium is safer than bananas.” This is the claim that nuclear scientists made at the time of the tritium controversy at the Wolseong Nuclear Power Plant in 2021. Reporter Lee Seung-hoon of People’s Voice has been covering nuclear power issues since that year. He said, “I was angry that scientists made these claims every time the nuclear power plant issue broke out.” It was also the year that the Japanese government decided to discharge contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear accident. This claim also appears in recent government card news. “The amount of tritium in contaminated water is much lower than in coffee bananas.”
There are many claims that the media that covers contaminated water must put their finger on the sword of verification. This reporter says that the representative argument among them is “international standards.” This is a word that the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), the Japanese government, and the Korean government emphasize as in previous reports. Since last April, this reporter has been dissecting the hidden issues of contaminated water discharge for the 10th time in a special series.
‘Hidden issues’ refer to issues that are hidden behind the ‘quotation marks’ of the media and politicians but require verification. It is said that Japan dilutes contaminated water 740 times with seawater. What is the original radioactivity concentration of contaminated water? Did the Japanese government reveal this? If the diluted concentration is below the standard, is there any radioactive waste that cannot be disposed of? Did the IAEA take this into consideration? How much contaminated water has the Japanese government released without permission so far?
The process of answering these questions is not smooth. Even if you ask related organizations, you will not get a clear answer. Since it is rare for reporters to write the same content, it is difficult to feel reassured even after verification. This reporter actively seeks advice from multiple experts. I searched the IAEA website to find data cited in the deleted Asahi Shimbun article . I downloaded all three years’ worth of reports. He asked an official from the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission whether this discharge of contaminated water ‘does not violate domestic standards,’ and was said to have received a rebuttal, saying, “It is unprecedented in mankind, so it is difficult to compare with existing procedures.”
Reporter Seung-Hoon Lee, whom I met on the 4th, emphasized that the important thing is ‘forward’. “Disposal of radioactive waste is the biggest challenge for all countries that use nuclear power. If Japan allows the discharge of radioactive waste by saying, ‘You can just dilute it and throw it away,’ there is no reason not to spend the money and choose the same method.” Japan ALPSIt has been announced that the reprocessing facility, which residents opposed, will be completed by 2024, based on the forced discharge of contaminated water that has gone through (concentration reduction facility). The enormous amount of contaminated water that the Japanese government has been discharging without permission is also a hidden issue. The following is a Q&A.
‘Show’ leaves review to the agency that recommended discharge- How did you become interested in reporting on the contaminated water issue?
“At the recommendation of the editor-in-chief, I have been in charge of covering nuclear power generation since 2021. At first, I thought that nuclear power issues were a specialized area and should not be jumped into carelessly, so I put up a (psychological) wall. I think many reporters will probably do the same. I will continue to report. One reason is because of the claims made by nuclear engineers every time the nuclear power plant issue arose. They always said, ‘Banana is more dangerous than tritium.’ At that time, a lot of researchers and data dealing with the dangers of tritium were coming out. Such research. Without mentioning it, they talked about tritium as if it were all around us and was safe. From then on, I felt that I had to verify the claims of nuclear scientists. In the end, I got angry (laughter).”
– One of the exclusive reports is that ‘ the IAEA , which is considering discharging contaminated water, has already recommended discharging contaminated water into the ocean in 2015.’ What does this mean?
“Previously, the IAEA requested that the Japanese government review its plan to discharge contaminated water into the ocean, and as a third party it seemed to accept this. However, if it had already recommended ocean discharge, the story would be different. A third agency could consider various alternatives. It should have been there, but it was initially impossible. Entrusting the review to an organization that had already recommended discharge seemed like a kind of ‘show’. Reading the Greenpeace report, Asahi titled ‘IAEA recommends
discharging Fukushima radioactive water into the sea’ I saw an annotation quoting a newspaper. I searched for the original text of the related article, but all the related articles had been deleted. I downloaded and searched through all the records published by the IAEA between 2013 and 2015. In 2015, in the name of IAEA President Yukiya Amano, the release of water was actually recommended. “There was a document. The exact expression was ‘Consider discharge of water, etc.,’ and it pointed out the easiest and cheapest method among various alternatives.”
[Related article: [Exclusive] Fukushima contaminated water discharged into the ocean, it turns out that the IAEA recommended it in 2015 / Voice of the People]
Nuclear Safety and Security Commission’s empty response ‘There is no precedent, so it is difficult to compare with the current standards’- It was first reported that the concentration of radioactive substances before dilution in seawater after ALPS was about 2.6 times the allowable standard. Why is concentration before dilution important?
“The Japanese government did not disclose until the end whether the concentration of ALPS-treated contaminated water exceeded the standard. Lee Jun-taek, professor emeritus of physics at Konkuk University, reported that the dilution procedure followed by the Japanese government was strange. Looking at the data released by Tokyo Electric Power Company, the concentration is within the permissible standard . When viewed as ‘1’, the concentration of 30 radionuclides was stated to be 0.0036 after dilution with 740 times seawater. If this figure is traced back, the concentration of contaminated water before dilution (after treatment) is 2.6 times higher than the allowable standard. [Related article: Why Japan dilutes
contaminated water ‘ 740
times’ and dumps it into the sea / Voice of the people] According to radioactive waste experts, discharge is usually decided after confirming that the concentration of liquid radioactive waste is below the standard before dilution. However, Tokyo Electric Power Company did not reveal the concentration, but after diluting it, it announced whether the result was below the standard. ‘After dilution, it is below the standard, so it is okay.’ If that is the case, then there is nothing that cannot be discharged, whether it is toxic or radioactive waste. However
, IAEA, Japanese and Korean government officials came out and said that this release of water was in accordance with ‘international standards.’ When the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission asked, ‘Isn’t this dilution different from the normal liquid waste disposal procedure?’ they responded, ‘This is the first time in human history that this kind of accident and method has been experienced by everyone, so it is not appropriate to compare it to this (normal procedure). There is no existing precedent. He said, ‘There is no object to compare to.’
– What is the amount of radioactive material in the contaminated water after ALPS treatment and before dilution?
“Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power announced that the radioactivity concentration of discharged water such as cooling water is ‘discharged at 13 Bq (becquerel) per liter.’ However, Japan dilutes it with 740 times more seawater and discharges a concentration of 1,500 Bq per liter. (Korea Nuclear Power Plant) This is a huge difference from the coolant discharge concentration. Japan’s allowable standard (for tritium) is 60,000 Bq , so looking at the data released by Tokyo Electric Power Company, the concentration before dilution is more than 120,000 Bq , which is double .”
It will be a precedent… A sign that no country can dispose of contaminated water.- What do you think about the immediate impact of contaminated water on marine products and life?
“I don’t think we can’t eat seafood and salt because we started discharging water. We don’t think the ocean will be polluted at a huge level right now. What we are seriously concerned about is that this will set a precedent. Radioactive waste will be distributed to all countries that use nuclear power. “Disposal is the biggest challenge. Japan discharged waste like this, saying, ‘You can just dilute it and throw it away.’ There is no reason why everyone should not dispose of it in the same way. Why spend money to ban and regulate the discharge of waste?”
– He also pointed out that ‘the real problem of Fukushima’s contaminated water is that radioactive materials have been leaking for 10 years.’
“The story of the contaminated water that has already been discharged has not been talked about for over 10 years. Japan has never properly investigated and revealed the total amount of radioactive contaminated water that has been discharged, but this article is an estimate based on as many records as possible. Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, March 2011 The United Nations estimates that 80% of the radioactive material released into the air when reactors 1 to 4 exploded one after another ended up in the sea. It was collected from large quantities of groundwater , rainwater, and some of the seawater coolant used to cool the nuclear reactor. However, at the beginning of the accident, when there were not enough storage tanks, more than 10,000 tons of highly concentrated contaminated water was suddenly discharged without permission. After that, uncontrolled contaminated water continued to leak. The difference between the concentration of surface sea water between Fukushima and the sea off Korea is still evident. “This is clear evidence of ongoing contamination. Since seawater circulates, the concentration should equalize once the leak has stopped.”
– The government and ruling party are considering changing the term to ‘(contaminated) treated water.’
This is what People Power Party lawmaker Shin Won-sik said while questioning Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-seop in April. When Minister Lee responded that it was correct to use treated water, Rep. Shin argued that the term contaminated water was a ‘North Korean-style terminological confusion tactic.’ The timing of making this claim is important. Representative Shin’s claim of ‘North Korea tactics’ came after the Chosun Ilbo reported on March 23 that ‘North Korea issued an order to stimulate anti-Japanese sentiment by spreading the Fukushima ghost story.’ Calling it polluted water is an act of driving it as if it is buried in a specific ideology. However, the term “treated water” obscures the truth. As the Japanese government also stated, radioactive substances such as tritium and carbon -14 cannot be completely removed from contaminated water, and the amount is enormous.”
Government’s ‘scare’, actively blocking reporting- Other articles to recommend.
“Not long ago, the U.S. government of Massachusetts banned the discharge of contaminated water from the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant into the sea, and New York State also enacted a law banning the discharge of cooling water from the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. Indian Point is a closed nuclear power plant, and liquid radioactive waste is dumped into the Hudson River메이저놀이터. When they tried to release the water into the water, all the ruling and opposition party lawmakers rushed in and enacted a ban bill. Looking at the press release from New York State, a Republican lawmaker wrote a statement saying, “I have been opposing it from the beginning and welcome the passage of the bill.” . This issue is not seen as a political issue between the ruling and opposition parties.
The United States, however, expressed support for Japan’s plan to discharge contaminated water across the Pacific Ocean. Based on this, the Korean government’s ruling party says that concerns about the discharge of contaminated water are an overreaction. Fukushima “Contaminated water is overwhelmingly dangerous as it comes in direct contact with nuclear fuel, but it is important to note that in New York State, a statewide movement has arisen against the discharge of cooling water that has not come in direct contact with it.”
[Related article: US supports Japan’s discharge of contaminated water, bans discharge of coolant from nuclear power plants in Hudson River / Voice of the people]
– Although the political battle over the discharge of contaminated water receives attention, it seems that there are few media outlets covering nuclear power generation issues, including contaminated water.
“Initially, there may be problems that reporters cannot easily access because the nuclear power plant issue is a specialized area, but it also seems to be influenced by the government. If there are concerns about the release of water, they will continue to scare people by labeling it as ‘fake news’ and ‘incitement to ghost stories.’ Isn’t that right? Professor Seo Kyun-ryeol (Seoul National University Department of Nuclear Engineering), an expert, is being harassed by being sued for damages and accused of speaking as best as he can and conveying critical views.”
-What needs the media’s attention now that the release has begun?
“As an extension of concerns that this discharge of contaminated water would set a precedent, Japan announced that it would complete the Rokasho Village reprocessing facility next year. Construction was postponed several times due to strong opposition from residents. Most experts say the radioactive waste coming out of this will be enormous. It is expected. Looking at the reprocessing facilities in the UK and France, this can be predicted to some extent. The Sellafield reprocessing facility in the UK is called a ‘living Chernobyl.’ I also hope that the issue of the contaminated water discharge procedure revealed earlier will be covered in various ways. Japan and Although the Korean government claims to have followed international standards, it is revealed that they are deceiving the whole world by thinking that it is okay to dilute it.