May 23, 2023

The science: studies, findings, quotes from the expert panel

Japan’s proposed plan to release 1.3 million tons of radioactive wastewater from Fukushima has been deemed “inadequate, incomplete, inconsistent and biased” by a third-party panel of expert scientists assembled by the Pacific Islands Forum (the leading political and economic policy organization of the region, comprised of 18 countries). Japan’s plan has also been opposed by the National Association of Marine Laboratories(NAML), a nonprofit that includes over 100 research and academic institutions that focus on marine and coastal science, including Stanford University, Cornell University, Duke University, University of Washington, University of Alaska, University of California, University of Hawaii, University of Texas, NOAA Fisheries, and many more prominent scientific and academic institutions.

Experts who reviewed TEPCO data include: 

  • Dr. Ken Buesseler: PhD Marine Chemistry Senior Scientist, Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • Dr. Arjun Makhijani: PhD Engineering, Specializing in Nuclear Fusion President & Board of Director Institute for Energy and Environmental Research
  • Dr. Robert H. Richmond: PhD Biological Sciences Research Professor and Director Kewalo Marine Laboratory University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • Dr. Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress: PhD High Energy Physics Scientist-in-Residence, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies Adjunct Professor, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

TEPCO dump details and relevant health studies

  • There are 64 radioactive nuclides in this water, including strontium-90 (Sr-90), cesium-134 (Cs-134), cesium-137 (Cs-137), iodine-129 (I-129), ruthenium-106 (Ru-106), antimony-125 (Sb-125), and cobalt 60 (Co-60), carbon-14 (C-14) and tritium (T). 
  • TEPCO created a processing system, called Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), but they haven’t proven it works to remove all of these nuclides. The data they’ve provided is messy and biased, and only measures 19 out of 64 nuclides. Their data does not follow sound scientific principles.
  • TEPCO has a reputation for lying about and covering up nuclear waste. 
  • Tritium is a big nuclide in question because the ALPS processing system can’t treat tritium and will release it into the ocean. 
  • Tritium, including organically bound tritium (OBT) found at many other reactor sites, is bad to ingest. Tritium bioaccumulates, meaning it works its way up the food chain. When ingested, it causes DNA mutations, which is very serious, causing cancers and organ failure, with detrimental effects on fetal development
  • Remember when they told us Mercury in tuna is bad? That’s because of bioaccumulation, too. It’s like that, but concentrating radioactive materials into your food, which mutate your DNA— causing cancers and organ failure, with detrimental effects on fetal development
  • We cannot take this back. Once the waste is in the ocean, it stays there. Some of the nuclides in question, if released, would remain in the ocean for multi-millions of years.  
  • Common misconceptions are that this waste can be diluted and will be safe. However, The assumption that “dilution is the solution to pollution” is scientifically outdated and ecologically inappropriate. That is even more so in the case of the proposed discharges, which will inflict substantial damage to fisheries in Japan, and beyond. 
  • Tritium requires 100 years to break down completely. It should be stored until it breaks down. 
  • “There is no safe level of exposure and there is no dose of radiation so low that the risk of a malignancy is zero”–Dr. Karl Z. Morgan, dubbed the father of Health Physics.
  • “…there is no safe level of exposure to ionising radiation, and the search for quantifying such a safe level is in vain.”—Rosalie Bertell, PhD.

QUOTES: What the Expert Scientists and Pacific Islands Leaders are saying

Taken from Pacific Islands Forum Public Webinar

  • “Make no mistake, the [Pacific Islands] region is steadfast in its position, that there should be no discharge until all parties verified through scientific means that such a discharge is safe. Furthermore, taking the easy way out in this unprecedented case, could well open Pandora’s box and lead to widespread ocean dumping that disregards the concerns and livelihoods of small island coastal communities. As stated by many [Pacific Islands] forum members, we should rather err on the side of caution. There is no doubt in my mind that more time is absolutely necessary to fully consider all implications of such a decision before choosing the course of action that is not only in the best interest of Japan, but also of all Pacific Island countries.” -Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna
  • “The solution to pollution is dilution” is an old paradigm that we now know isn’t true. “As soon as you add living creatures to the mix, which is what the ocean is full of. Then you get away from dilution and you get into biological concentration… And the concern we have is how this stuff is taken up, and then how it moves its way into people.” -Dr. Bob Richmond 
  • “The policies that we use today are simply not kept up with scientific advancements. Science is advancing on a weekly, monthly, almost daily basis. And yet many of the policies that are being used now, including the ones that we’ve been up against with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and partners in this [Fukushima] effort now are simply outdated and they don’t reflect the best available science the knowledge we have today.” – Dr. Bob Richmond
  • “This is an opportunity during the United Nations “Ocean Decade” to reevaluate not just in this case, but take a broader view of how we treat our oceans and the people who depend on them. There is a strong consensus internationally that continued use of the ocean for dumping waste is simply not sustainable.” – Dr. Bob Richmond
  • “You can’t taste or feel and smell and see radioactivity.” – Dr. Ken Bussler
  • “[TEPCO] data shared with the Pacific Island forum is deemed to be inadequate, incomplete, inconsistent and biased.” – Dr. Arjun Makhijani
  • “The relevant data is missing from the sample, meaning that important pieces of information are not included in the analysis. Inadequate refers to large gaps in the data indicating that not enough information was collected to provide a thorough analysis and when data is inconsistent in these words, it refers to data that contains discrepancies or conflicts within itself.” -Dr Arjun Makhijani
  • “The poor data quality control is very shocking.” – Dr. Arjun Makhijani
  • “My concerns have grown the more we have discussed with [TEPCO].” -Dr. Arjun Makhijani
  • “Because there are trans boundary issues, because there are efficiency issues, because there are many, many issues of ecology in regard to discharging such a large volume of waste and radioactivity into the ocean, alternatives should be considered.” -Dr. Arjun Makhijani

There are many alternatives to consider. Two are: 

  • Bioremediation techniques: using microorganisms, algae, fungi, and/or oysters, we can consolidate and concentrate the waste in algal “cakes”, fruiting bodies, or shells, respectively. With the water filtered, it can be returned to the sea, while the concentrated waste would then be disposed of using standard hazardous waste protocols for solids, preventing the waste from entering the ocean and surrounding waters.
  • Electrocoagulation: a two-step process, applying electricity to the water which binds the waste in the water (including Carbon-14 and tritium), followed by an ion filtration step. This is safer and more efficient than TEPCO’s current plan, since TEPCO’s current plan suggests leaving Carbon-14 and tritium in the water (as well as other radionuclides that have been detected by independent sampling).

More information on the situation, along with research and citations, can be found here:

More information on several known alternate solutions can be found here:

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