Nuclear Energy

Fukushima Water Release: Facts and Controversies


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Fukushima Disaster

Mains level: Not Much


Central Idea

  • Japan’s decision to release cooling water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean has sparked a complex debate.
  • Amidst concerns about radiation, environmental impact, and transparency, understanding the facts is vital.

About Fukushima Disaster

  • The Fukushima disaster refers to a series of nuclear incidents that occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.
  • It followed the powerful earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11, 2011.
  • The disaster resulted in the release of radioactive materials and had significant implications for both human health and the environment.
  • It is considered one of the most severe nuclear accidents in history, alongside the Chernobyl disaster.

Why Fukushima Water is Being Released?

  • Storage Constraints: The Fukushima facility’s storage tanks are at full capacity due to the need for constant cooling of damaged reactors since the 2011 tsunami disaster.
  • Vast Water Volume: The plant requires 170 tons of cooling water daily, with rain and groundwater further exacerbating the issue. The site holds 1,343 million cubic meters of water across 1,046 storage tanks.
  • Release Process: Filtered water undergoes a one-kilometre tunnel before entering the Pacific Ocean. This process is expected to span 30 years while the radioactive waste remains on land.

Regulatory Approval and Skepticism

  • Regulatory Endorsement: Both Japan’s atomic agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have approved the release, stating negligible radiological impact.
  • Skepticism and Concerns: Environmentalists, fishing experts, neighbouring states, and public sentiments accuse Japan of underplaying radiation levels. Concerns encompass ocean contamination, ecological harm, economic loss, and damage to reputation.

Water Preparation and Tritium

  • Filter System: Contaminated water passes through the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), capable of filtering 62 radioactive elements but not tritium.
  • Tritium Dilution: The plant agency intends to dilute tritium concentration to 1,500 Becquerel per liter, a fraction of the safety standard, before releasing it.
  • Tritium Safety: Experts assert that tritium, a weak radioactive form of hydrogen, poses minimal risk as it emits weak beta particles, easily blocked by materials like plastic or skin.

Pacific Ocean’s Role and Controversy

  • Dilution Principle: Experts stress that “the solution to pollution is dilution.” When water is sufficiently diluted, it becomes safe for both humans and the environment.
  • Tritium Focus and Critique: Greenpeace accuses the government and plant agency of focusing on tritium to divert attention from other radioactive elements that won’t be filtered out.
  • Alternatives and Considerations: Alternatives like additional tanks or evaporation exist. However, concerns over tank leaks and airborne radioactive releases complicate these options.


  • The Fukushima water release debate presents a complex array of scientific, environmental, and geopolitical considerations.
  • Striking a balance between environmental preservation, public safety, and responsible nuclear waste management remains a challenging task.
  • As experts, activists, and governments deliberate, it’s essential to foster transparency, prioritize informed discussions, and seek solutions that minimize risks and promote global well-being.

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