The warning came amid Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida approving a proposal by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to release treated and diluted wastewater from the plant. TEPCO pushed through with the discharge of radioactive water from the plant on Aug. 24, unloading it in the Pacific Ocean.
But Dr. Timothy Mousseau of the University of South Carolina (USC) has expressed worry. According to the professor at USC's Biological Sciences Department, the Fukushima wastewater could trigger the appearance of mutated animals due to the effects of an under-researched radioactive chemical called tritium. Mousseau warned that tritium, the only radioactive isotope of hydrogen, may genetically damage marine life.
"We see genetic damage. We see effects on reproduction. We see effects on development and we see effects on longevity," he said. "And so, there's certainly potential for all of these negative effects, including genetic mutations. What that means, and what the long-term impacts will be, we have no idea. But the potential is there."
Currently, there isn't a lot of information about tritium because of limited research so the effects it could have on marine life is unclear. But Mosseau said early indications point to the possibility of tritium being just as dangerous as other well-known radioactive chemicals. Although the wastewater Japan is shedding has been treated, Mosseau said tritium could still be present as it is difficult to get rid of.
"Tritium is not removed in any way from this treatment process. It escapes the treatment process that they have in place because it's basically water," he added.
Japan has started pumping more than a million metric tons (MT) of treated radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi plant, a process that will take decades to complete. The goal of dumping the wastewater is to finally shut the plant completely down. Tanks on the site hold about 1.3 million (MT) of the water - enough to fill 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
TEPCO, the utility responsible for the plant, has been filtering the contaminated water to remove isotopes. The filtration process leaves only tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that is hard to separate. It will dilute the water until tritium levels fall below regulatory limits before pumping it into the sea from the site on the coast north of Tokyo.
Tritium is considered to be relatively harmless because its radiation is not energetic enough to penetrate human skin. Water containing tritium is routinely released from nuclear plants around the world, and regulatory authorities support dealing with the Fukushima water in this way. But according to a 2014 article in Scientific American, tritium can raise cancer risks when ingested at levels higher than in discharged Fukushima wastewater.
Kishida said the central government in Tokyo will take responsibility until the disposal of treated Fukushima wastewater is completed, "even if it takes several decades." Under the plan he approved, 31,200 tons of wastewater will be discharged by March 2024.
Japan and scientific organizations say the water is safe, but environmental activists argue that all possible impacts have not been studied. Japan says it needs to start releasing the water as storage tanks are full.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nation's nuclear watchdog, gave the plan a green light in July. It argued that the proposal "met international standards and the impact on people and the environment would be 'negligible.'" (Related: IAEA says Fukushima nuclear plant plan to dump radioactive waste into Pacific Ocean is perfectly safe.)
Greenpeace said that the radiological risks have not been fully assessed and the biological impacts of tritium, carbon-14, strontium-90 and iodine-129 – to be released with the water – "have been ignored."
A study published April 2021 in the Journal of Radiation Research outlined the potential health effects of tritium. The study served as a response to the discharge of tritium-laced water. This water is filtered using the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) and stored in the now-decommissioned Fukushima power plant prior to discharge.
FukushimaWatch.com has more news about the defunct power plant.
Watch this video about the mutant animals of Chernobyl – something that could also happen to the marine animals where Fukushima wastewater is released.
This video is from the Daily Videos channel on Brighteon.com.