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Scientists To Assess Radioactivity Of Ocean Water

Scientists are preparing to take samples of water near the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station following a major release of treated radioactive water in August.

In 2011, a massive earthquake off the coast of Japan resulted in a tsunami that wrecked the facility beyond repair. Since then, the plant has been producing around 100m³ of contaminated water as part of efforts to keep the reactors cool since the meltdown.

In the following 12 years, the plant’s operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has accumulated 1.34 million tonnes of water – enough to fill 500 Olympic-size pools – but has run out of storage space.

Japanese authorities subsequently agreed to begin releasing some of the plant’s treated wastewater into the Pacific Ocean, much to the chagrin of Chinese authorities, who expressed concern over its environmental impact and banned Japanese seafood as a result.

But Tepco has been filtering the contaminated water to remove most of the radioactive isotopes, leaving only tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that is hard to separate.

Scientists from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are planning to visit Japan next week to take marine samples. These will be used to establish whether Tepco and the Japanese government are adhering to international safety standards.

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The results from the new samples will also be compared against samples taken last year to see if any changes have occurred in the levels of radionuclides in the marine environment since the treated water discharges began in August.

As well as seawater, the IAEA team, which is comprised of experts from laboratories in Canada, China and South Korea, will also analyse marine sediment and fish samples from both coastal waters and local markets.

Identical samples will be sent to all of the laboratories participating in the comparison study and analysed for radioactivity.

Source: E&T


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