This is done to ensure that the contaminated water does not reach fishing hotspots.
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO), in order to dispose of radioactive water that has built up at Fukushima Daiichi's nuclear power plant and threatens to overflow, announced plans to drill an underwater tunnel to allow it to dump the water at a safe distance from the shore.
According to the Associated Press, the tunnel will be a kilometer long (0.6 mile) and serve to keep the contaminated water from local fishers. This is in an effort to appease the industry, which has been vocal in its opposition to the idea of dumping the water. Fukushima's decommissioning efforts have been controversial since the beginning. Environmental advocates and other countries have urged Japan not to dump the water into oceans. The plan seems to be moving forward with no other options and time running out.
According to the AP, the motivation for digging the tunnel was at most partially to avoid the perception that TEPCO would harm wildlife and hamper the fishing industry.
It is also a matter necessity at this stage. Fukushimas water storage tanks are expected to reach their maximum capacity in the second half of next year. The radioactive water will overflow at that point. This would create a bigger ecological problem than simply treating the water and diluting it before dumping it into ocean. There is also the logistical issue of emptying hundreds of tanks to make space for facilities that will be required to decommission the plant.
TEPCO plans to drill an earthquake-resistant tunnel as soon as possible so it can begin its 30-year-long release, treated and diluted water by mid-2023. The current plan states that the water will be released approximately 40 feet below the surface. It will then hopefully mix with the Pacific Ocean, causing no harm.
READ MORE: Fukushima nuclear water will be released via an undersea tunnel [Associated Press]
Fukushima: Japan says sorry, but it must dump this radioactive water into the ocean