The United Nations has given Japan the green light to dump its troves of treated radioactive water from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster into the Pacific Ocean.
As Reuters reports, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency has concluded its two-year study into the Fukushima cooling water — which is enough to fill 500 Olympic swimming pools — and found that it would, if released slowly into the ocean, have a “negligible radiological impact to people and the environment.”
The controversial decision has drawn plenty of scrutiny over the last couple of years and experts are still debating the risks involved. Environmental activist groups like Greenpeace have warned that the company that owns the nuclear power plant didn’t go far enough in removing radioactive materials left in the water.
Japan, however, claims it has done its homework and has been trying to assuage any concerns.
In a press conference in China last month, Japanese officials said that the water has been filtered over the years to remove most radioactive elements except for the hydrogen isotope tritium, which, as the report notes, is difficult to separate from water.
The water will continue to be diluted, those officials promised, until tritium levels are below internationally-approved levels. It would also not all be released at once, but would instead be released slowly over a period of 30 to 40 years.
In spite of those assurances, however, detractors are nevertheless concerned about the controversial decision.
Chief among those critics is Beijing, which accused Japan of “completely confusing concepts and misleading public opinion” and the UN of hastily releasing its report.
“If the Japanese side is bent on going its own way,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement to the press, as quoted by Reuters, “it must bear all the consequences.”
Other groups and countries are concerned about the release of the water too, and as Reuters notes, consumers in South Korea have already begun hoarding sea salt and other ocean-based items.
Regardless of the UN’s go-ahead, Japan will have the final say in the decision — the concluding outcome of a disaster that occurred well over a decade ago.