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article imageJapan to release tritium-contaminated water into ocean

By Karen Graham     Apr 15, 2016 in Environment
The news that Japan is planning on dumping tritium contaminated water from Fukushima's disabled power plant into the Pacific Ocean has taken a back seat to the news of a second earthquake in as many days to hit southern Japan.
In an earlier story, Digital Journal reported on the proposal by "experts" that say the only option is to dump the tritium-contaminated water being stored at the crippled Fukushima power plant into the Pacific Ocean.
To dump or not to dump has become the question as Japan tries to figure out what to do with the tons and tons of water being used to cool the melted-down reactors. After being in contact with the reactors, the water becomes contaminated with radioactive substances, and while the water is cleansed of cesium and strontium, tritium is another problem. But Japan says it will begin dumping the tanks later this year.
TEPCO employees remove 300 tons of contaminated water generated daily at the power plant in order to cool down the melted reactors, reports the Telegraph. Because tritium is so expensive to remove from water, it is cheaper to leave it, and the water must be stored. There are now over 1,000 huge storage tanks sitting on the plant grounds, a number of them already leaking.
The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has reported yet another leak of highly ...
The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has reported yet another leak of highly radioactive water from its storage tanks on September 4, 2014. there have been plenty more leaks since then.
Citing the massive amount of work involved in removing the tritium and the exorbitant cost, ABC News reports that scientists are arguing that it isn't worth the time or money and further say the risks of dumping the tritium-contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean would be minimal.
What is a safe level of radiation?
The decision to dump the tritium-tainted water into the sea has created a public outcry in Japan and around the world. There are some scientists that are saying the public is creating a big to-do over nothing. Rosa Yang is a nuclear expert at the Electric Power Research Institute, based in Palo Alto, California. She is also an advisor to Japan on decommissioning nuclear reactors.
Yang says the uproar by the public is uncalled for, saying a Japanese official should be filmed drinking a glass of water from one of the storage tanks to let the public see how safe it really is to drink. That may be going a little too far, but it just shows how murky the waters really are when it comes to determining the safety of tritium.
What is tritium?
Tritium is the radioactive form of hydrogen and is called an isotope. While hydrogen doesn't have any neutrons, tritium has two. The added neutrons make tritium unstable, and like all radioactive substances, it decays. While decaying, it gives off or emits beta radiation.
Have you seen glow-in-the-dark lighting and signs? Tritium gas is combined with phosphorus to create the luminescence or light. This type of lighting does not require electricity and makes it great for highway signs and airport runways. Tritium is also used in medical and nuclear research. Some countries use it for fuel in thermonuclear weapons, says the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission(CNSC.
The CNSC also says: "Tritium exposure can pose a health risk if it is ingested through drinking water or food, inhaled or absorbed through the skin in large quantities." That phrase, "large quantities" is key to a discussion about the dangers of tritium.
The CNSC says a person would have to consume an awful lot of water or food heavily contaminated with Tritium before there would be any noticeable consequences. Despite this information, tritium levels in water and for the general public are closely monitored in Canada.
"Any exposure to tritium radiation could pose some health risk. This risk increases with prolonged exposure, and health risks include increased occurrence of cancer," said Robert Daguillard, a spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The levels of tritium in the water stored at Fukushima is estimated to be at 3.4 peta becquerels, or 34 with 14 zeros after it. But if all the water were to be gathered in just one place, the actual amount of tritium would amount to 57 milliliters or about two espresso cups, says the ABC News.
More about Tritium, Fukushima Daiichi, two earthquakes in two days, dumping in ocean, radioactive contamination
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