Huge quantities of contaminated water from the Fukushima power plant could end up in the Pacific Ocean, or so suggests Japan's environment minister. Fukushima has accumulated more than 1 million tons of water containing tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, as roughly 110 tons of groundwater each day reach damaged reactor buildings to mix with water used to keep fuel cores from melting, reports the Guardian. But with storage space expected to be depleted by summer 2022, "the only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it," Yoshiaki Harada said Tuesday, noting "the whole of the government will discuss this." Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga later said Harada had only offered "his personal opinion," per Reuters.
The idea to dump the contaminated water is actually one of several in the mix, per the Guardian, which notes the water might be vaporized or stored elsewhere. But fishermen in particular fear the effects of Harada's suggestion on an industry that's just beginning to bounce back. Even South Korea is concerned, with its foreign ministry asking Japan to make "a wise and prudent decision on the issue," per Reuters. The outlet notes tritium is thought to be "relatively harmless," while the Guardian explains that "coastal nuclear plants commonly dump water that contains tritium into the ocean." But Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power said last year that the water stored in nearly 1,000 tanks contained other contaminants, too. Experts will weigh in before any decision is made. (Tritium was previously leaked in Florida and New York.)