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Greenpeace: Fukushima Water Has a Lurking Danger

Group says it has an isotope that could damage human DNA, warns against ocean dump
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 23, 2020 10:40 AM CDT

(Newser) – Almost a decade after an earthquake triggered a tsunami that caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, Japan is still grappling with the aftermath of the triple disaster—and with the question of what to do with more than a million metric tons of radioactive water. The government is expected to announce later this month that the water will be dumped into the ocean, but fishing groups say produce from the region will be shunned, and Greenpeace says the water could damage human DNA, the BBC reports. Japanese authorities say filtration can remove all radioactive isotopes except tritium, which it considers relatively harmless, but a report from Greenpeace warns that the water also holds dangerous levels of the carbon-14 isotope.

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Carbon-14 "concentrates in fish at a level thousands of times higher than tritium," and has a half-life of 5,370 years, the Greenpeace report states. "Carbon-14 is especially important as a major contributor to collective human radiation dose and has the potential to damage human DNA." Report author Shaun Burnie, a nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany, accuses the Japanese government and the plant's operator of "covering up the scale of the crisis" and failing to warn people in Japan and nearby countries that the water to be dumped contains carbon-14, the Guardian reports. Authorities in Japan say space to store water used to cool the power station will run out in 2022. Their plan involves diluting the water inside the plant before releasing it into the ocean over the next 30 years. (Read more Fukushima Dai-ichi stories.)

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