Japan’s dumping of treated radioactive waste from the Fukushima nuclear disaster into the Pacific Ocean could result in animal mutations among other severe adverse ecological consequences, a life sciences professor has warned.
Describing how a relatively obscure radioactive chemical known as tritium could have profound impacts on marine wildlife, University of South Carolina Biological Sciences Professor Timothy Mousseau noted possible genetic alterations were not out of the question.
“Tritium is radioactive hydrogen. It combines with…oxygen to form radioactive water,” Prof. Mousseau told the UK Daily Star last week.
Since there’s currently no technology available to remove tritium from water, the wastewater is instead diluted.
“In the laboratory, with much higher levels of tritium, we see genetic damage, we see effects on reproduction, we see effects on development, and we see effects on longevity.”
“And so there’s certainly the potential for all of these negative effects, including genetic mutations,” he noted, adding, “What that means, and what the long-term impacts will be, we have no idea. But the potential is there.”
George Washington University Professor Emily Hammond echoed Mousseau’s skepticism, pointing out safety levels for tritium have not yet been determined.
“The challenge with radionuclides (such as tritium) is that they present a question that science cannot fully answer; that is, at very low levels of exposure, what can be counted as ‘safe’?” Hammond explained to the BBC, adding the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency’s [IAEA] decision to allow the release of the wastewater in July doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe.
“One can have a lot of faith in the IAEA’s work while still recognizing that compliance with standards does not mean that there are ‘zero’ environmental or human consequences attributed to the decision.”
The controversial dumping of the diluted radioactive wastewater from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster by the Tokyo Electric Power Company began last Thursday after Japan’s new Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, gave the green light following a tour of the plant earlier this month proving the water was “safe.”
The disposal of the nuclear wastewater into the ocean has stirred anger among residents, fishermen and restauranteurs, whose main staples include local seafood delicacies.
Demonstrators in South Korea and Hong Kong held massive rallies last week in protest of the wastewater release.
While the United Nations approved the disposal of the wastewater into the Pacific Ocean, Japan’s neighbor China has put a ban on Japanese seafood imports.
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