Fukushima Water Issue

GS-3 Mains : Disaster Management 

Short Notes or Revision Notes 

Question : Examine the concerns raised by Japan’s plan to release treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean. Discuss the opposition from fishing groups and neighboring countries, and evaluate the potential environmental and health risks associated with this decision.


  • Talks between Japan and China to address concerns over releasing treated radioactive water from Fukushima into the Pacific Ocean.

The Issue

  • Japan plans to release over one million tonnes of treated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant over 30 years.
  • The water is contaminated from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that damaged the plant.
  • Japan says the water is safe after treatment, but faces opposition from:
    • Fishing groups seafood contamination.
    • Neighboring countries, especially China, which banned Japanese seafood imports.

Nuclear Disasters

  • A nuclear accident is an event with significant consequences for people, environment, or the facility.
    • Examples: Chernobyl (1986), Three Mile Island (1979).
  • There have been 99 nuclear power plant accidents worldwide.

Concerns Over Release

  • Tritium and Carbon-14:Treatment removes most radioactive materials, but these isotopes remain.
    • They emit low radiation but can be risky if consumed in large quantities.
  • Lack of Study:More research is needed on the impact on the ocean floor and marine life.
  • Environmental Impact:Pacific Island nations fear another nuclear disaster, as some deal with consequences of US nuclear testing.

International Opposition

  • China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Pacific Island nations all have strong concerns.
  • Calls for more research on long-term environmental impacts.

Alternative Options

  • Storage: Storing water for longer allows radioactive decay to reduce risks.
    • Half-life of tritium is 12-13 years, other isotopes decay too.
    • Existing tanks could hold the water for safer future release.
  • Japan’s Choice: Opted for ocean release over storage or vaporization in 2020.

Fukushima Nuclear Disaster (March 11, 2011):

  • 0 earthquake and tsunami crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
  • Cooling system failures led to reactor overheating and explosions.
  • Release of radioactive isotopes like iodine-131 and cesium-137.
  • Evacuations and a 20-kilometer exclusion zone were established.

About Tritium

  • Radioactive isotope of hydrogen.
  • Low-energy beta particles emitted during decay.
  • Weak external radiation risk, but ingestion/inhalation pose concerns.
  • Naturally occurring, but regulated due to potential impact.


Pacific Ocean’s Role in Fukushima Water Issue

  • Dilution is key for Japan: Experts believe diluting the treated water in the vast Pacific will render it safe.
  • Greenpeace Criticism: They argue focus on tritium (removable) distracts from other radioactive elements that will remain.
  • Alternatives: Building more tanks or evaporation are options, but leakage and airborne release risks exist.


Other Major Nuclear Disasters

  • Chernobyl Disaster (1986):
    • Location: Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Ukraine
    • Cause: Explosion during a safety test
    • Impact: Release of massive radioactive materials, considered the worst nuclear disaster.
  • Three Mile Island Accident (1979):
    • Location: Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station, Pennsylvania, USA
    • Cause: Partial meltdown of reactor core
    • Impact: Release of radioactive gases.
  • Kyshtym Disaster (1957):
    • Location: Mayak Production Association, Soviet Union (now Russia)
    • Cause: Nuclear waste storage tank explosion
    • Impact: Significant release of radioactive materials.


Nuclear Energy Summit 2024

  • Highlighted the role of nuclear energy in:
    • Reducing fossil fuel use
    • Enhancing energy security
    • Boosting economic development
  • Follows the inclusion of nuclear energy in the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28).


Nuclear Power Plant in a Nutshell

Energy from Splitting Atoms

  • Nuclear power plants use nuclear fission to generate electricity.
  • Fission is the process of splitting atoms to release energy.

The Reactor Core

  • The reactor core contains uranium fuel, where fission occurs.

Heat, Steam, and Turbines

  • Heat from fission boils water into steam.
  • Steam spins turbine blades, which in turn generate electricity.

Cooling the System

  • Used steam is cooled back into water for reuse.
  • Cooling towers or nearby water sources are used for cooling.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *