In the grounds of the ravaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant sits a million-tonne headache for the plant’s operators and Japan’s government: tank after tank of water contaminated with radioactive elements.
What to do with the enormous amount of water, which grows by around 150 tonnes a day, is a thorny question, with controversy surrounding a long-standing proposal to discharge it into the sea, after extensive decontamination.
The water comes from several different sources: some is used for cooling at the plant, which suffered a meltdown after it was hit by a tsunami triggered by a massive earthquake in March 2011.
Groundwater that seeps into the plant daily, along with rainwater, add to the problem.
A thousand, towering tanks have now replaced many of the cherry trees that once dotted the plant’s ground.
Each can hold 1,200 tonnes, and most of them are already full.
“We will build more on the site until the end of 2020, and we think all the tanks will be full by around the summer of 2022,” said Junichi Matsumoto, an official with the unit of plant operator TEPCO in charge of dismantling the site.
TEPCO has been struggling with the problem for years, taking various measures to limit the amount of groundwater entering the site.
There is also an extensive pumping and filtration system, that each day brings up tonnes of newly contaminated water and filters out as many of the radioactive elements as possible.
– Highly radioactive –
The hangar where the decontamination system runs is designated “Zone Y” — a danger zone requiring special protections.
All those entering must wear elaborate protection: a full body suit, three layers of socks, three layers of gloves, a double cap topped by a helmet, a vest with a pocket carrying a dosimeter, a full-face respirator mask and special shoes.
Most of the outfit has to burned after use.
“The machinery filters contain radionuclides, so you have to be very protected here, just like with the buildings where the reactors are,” explained TEPCO risk communicator Katsutoshi Oyama.
TEPCO has been filtering newly contaminated water for years, but much of it needs to go through the process again because early versions of the filtration process did not fully remove some dangerous radioactive elements, including strontium 90.
The current process is more effective, removing or reducing around 60 radionuclides to levels accepted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for water being discharged.
But there is one that remains, which cannot be removed with the current technology: tritium.
Tritium is naturally present in the environment, and has also been discharged in its artificial form into the environment by the nuclear industry around the world.
There is little evidence that it causes harm to humans except in very high concentrations and the IAEA argues that properly filtered Fukushima water could be diluted with seawater and then safely released into the ocean without causing environmental problems.
– ‘Absolutely against it’ –
But those assurances are of little comfort to many in the region, particularly Fukushima’s fishing industry which, like local farmers, has suffered from the outside perception that food from the region is unsafe.
Kyoichi Kamiyama, director of the radioactivity research department at the regional government’s Fisheries and Marine Science Research Centre, points out that local fishermen are still struggling eight years after the disaster.
“Discharging into the ocean? I’m absolutely against it,” he told AFP.
At the national government level, the view is more sanguine.
“We want to study how to minimize the damage (from a potential discharge) to the region’s reputation and Fukushima products,” an Industry Ministry official said.
The government is sensitive to fears that people inside Japan and further afield will view any discharge as sending radioactive waste into the sea.
No decisions are likely in the near-term, with the country sensitive to the international spotlight that will fall on Japan as it hosts the Olympic Games next year.
Environmentalists are also resolutely opposed to any discharge into the sea, and Greenpeace argues that TEPCO cannot trusted to properly decontaminate the water.
The solution, said Greenpeace senior nuclear specialist Shaun Burnie, “ultimately can only be long-term storage and processing.”
Louie Gohmert’s daughter begs him to heed medical advice and not to follow Trump to ‘an early grave’
In a statement posted to Twitter this Friday, the daughter of Texas GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert said that her father contracted the coronavirus because he chose to ignore medical expertise.
Gohmert’s daughter Caroline, who is also a recording artist known as BELLSAINT, said that “wearing a mask is a non-partisan issue.”
“The advice of medical experts shouldn’t be politicized,” her statement read. “My father ignored medical expertise and now he has COVID.”
“It’s not worth following a president who has no remorse for leading his followers to an early grave,” she added.
Doctors fear Trump will lie about a vaccine to win the election
There is a fear among many that the so-called "October Surprise" won't be another international scandal at the White House, but President Donald Trump announcing a vaccine, whether there is one or not.
Washington Post political columnist Greg Sargent explained in his Monday column that scientists are issuing a warning in a series of New York Times interviews. Either Trump will like and announce a vaccine that isn't ready or he'll rush the process to ensure a vaccine is ready, whether it is or not. Some of the scientists even work for the American government and have updated information on the status of a vaccine.
GOP strategists fear a Kris Kobach nomination could cost Republicans greatly: ‘The Senate majority runs through Kansas’
In Kansas’ Republican senatorial primary, voters will choose between former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Rep. Roger Marshall — who some GOP strategists believe is by far the more electable of the two. And according to Politico’s James Arkin, one of the prominent Republicans who is sounding the alarm is Kevin McLaughlin, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Although Kobach and Marshall are both hard-right politically, Kobach is more extreme — so extreme that even in deep red Kansas, he lost a gubernatorial race to a centrist Democrat in the 2018 midterms. That Democrat, Laura Kelly, is now governor of Kansas, where Kobach was a leading promoter of the racist “birther” conspiracy theory during the 2010s.