General Question

smudges's avatar

Who or what gives Japan the right to dump nuclear waste into the ocean?

Asked by smudges (10199points) 1 month ago
32 responses
“Great Question” (4points)

How can they just up and decide to do this? Isn’t it a violation of something? Can’t any agency stop them? It’s just one ocean and it doesn’t belong to anyone, even though there are “rights” given to various countries. How long before we’re unable to use our beautiful beaches for swimming? or before mutated marine life is created? or before we’re no longer able to eat products from the ocean?

“Last week, the operator of the tsunami-devastated nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan, began releasing into the Pacific Ocean water that had been used to cool the facility’s reactors.”

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Lightlyseared's avatar

They didn’t. The water they “dumped” into the ocean contained less radiation than your average bottled spring water.
The negative response in purely political. Although that seems to be the norm these days.

Smashley's avatar

Dumping radiation into the ocean is never good, but the water has been treated and held for over a decade, and this process has been done in consultation with the IAEA. Unlike China, who dumps far more radioactive material than Japan’s dump, every single year, and has clearly been the driving force of the hysteria over this dump. Whataboutism, I know, but the scale of one country’s environmental crimes versus the other country’s unfortunate circumstance should really be noted if you actually care about the planet.

smudges's avatar

@Lightlyseared Don’t you think it sets a dangerous precedent? Who or what would stop Japan from dumping waste that’s more radioactive? and who would know? I don’t think it’s purely political. There are groups that care…they’re just not big enough to make much of an impact.

smudges's avatar

@Smashley You’re right, China is the number one polluter of the ocean. Second is Indonesia, third is the Philippines, Vietnam is in fourth place, and in fifth is Sri Lanka. We’re no angels, either.

“In 2010, 8.8 metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste came directly from China; researchers estimate that 3.53 million metric tons of that mismanaged plastic waste ended up in the ocean. While only select countries were monitored, America’s 0.30 metric tons pales in comparison to China’s 3.53. Don’t get us wrong, any plastic pollution in the ocean is bad, no matter the statistic, and the goal is absolutely to get to zero. However, based on this data, the United States is polluting a lot less in comparison to other countries, particularly China.”

Lightlyseared's avatar

@smudges Are you suggesting that Japan’s approach of taking their time, carefully filtering their waste and doing everything possible to reduce the harm, cooperating with international authorities and then releasing something that contains less radioactive particles than something you can purchase in a supermarket is setting a bad example? As opposed to what? Exactly?

Lightlyseared's avatar

@smudges I suppose you think the US’s approach of leaking dangerous radioactive waste into the environment without any idea what you’re doing and then hoping no one notices is a better precedent? Such as what happened in Minnesota earlier this year…

filmfann's avatar

History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man…

elbanditoroso's avatar

From a purely legal sense (not moral or ethical), Japan has the right to do pretty much anything from the shoreline to 100 miles out. There are various exceptions, but basically they own the sea – just like the US does – from the beach out 100 miles or so.

But as someone above said, this water has been purified and the amount of tritium in it is far less than you or I would get in a year.

So the object to dumping nuclear stuff – mostly because of the word ‘nuclear’ – is pure alarmism and not supported by fact. Scream and shout all you want, but this stuff is safe and will become even more so as it is deleted.

Pandora's avatar

Yeah, China started this crap and they are pretty up there on the pollution scale. It’s like listening to a pedophile complain that all teachers are pedophiles because they like kids. It’s hyped up news to distract from the point that they are number either Number 2 or 5 on the largest waste scale being dumped in the ocean depending on whose statistics you look at. Though it seems like the US is pretty low, we have to consider that we ship out a lot of our waste to other countries, for so-called, “recycling”. Which a lot of them don’t really do and just dump the crap in the ocean. They don’t want our trash either. China stopped taking our trash for recycling. This crap came out after Nikki Haley said China was the number one producer of pollution around the world. I find the timing curious.

smudges's avatar

@Lightlyseared Don’t yell at me. I asked a question, period. I may not have fully understood what I read in several articles. But again I ask: Who or what would stop Japan from dumping waste that’s more radioactive? (or any country?) and who would know? And how do YOU know that they’ve treated it so it’s ‘harmless’? Because they say so? Because it was tested right when or just before they dumped it? I’m not here to argue. I asked a question for an answer, not to debate. I care about the ocean, which we’re all already destroying with pollution and global warming. You, and the others writing here, don’t need to get all riled up about a simple question that an apparently ignorant person has asked, looking for information. So it’s ok for any nation to dump whatever they want into the ocean as long as it’s within 100 miles from shore? Something is fucked up about that.

As for Minnesota, I’m not saying the U.S. is innocent, but please stay focused.

kritiper's avatar

It’s not nuclear waste, as you put it. It’s radioactive water that was used to cool the Nukashima power plant after the tsunami. Sooner or later, all of this water would have to be released. So they are. Very slowly.
Mankind will snuff ourselves out soon enough without radioactive what-have-you so the dumping matters not in the whole scope of things.

smudges's avatar

@kritiper Is it tested for radioactivity? It kind of does matter, because if something were dumped into the ocean that is extremely bad, it would destroy marine life and mutate it. I tend to think it’s likely that that will happen before we wipe ourselves out.

Seriously, is there anyone who monitors this type of thing globally and can they be trusted? Or are they just another paid corporation who could give a shit?

No one so far has an answer to that. They seem to just want to brush off the real question.

Forever_Free's avatar

They didn’t “Just decide to”.
Japan is releasing the waste water into the ocean gradually, with a green light from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The first release is one of four, scheduled between now and the end of March 2024. The entire process will take at least 30 years.

smudges's avatar

Thanks for the information. The IAEA…ok. Will have to check that out.

I suppose it will always be something: Despite a promise to the US, the IAEA says satellite images suggest that North Korea has restarted the reactor which makes its weapons-grade plutonium.

elbanditoroso's avatar

The nuclear ‘issue’ isn’t going away.

Iran has nuclear weapons (so it is assumed) . Saudia Arabia wants nuclear technology for their own purposes (probably a weapons program). Israel has nuclear capabilities, as does North Korea, France, Britain, Russia, Ukraine, etc.

Sooner or later there will be another earthquake (think Fukushima), or a hurricane, or a mistake (Three Mile Island) or something else (Chernobyl). And all the IAEA rules in the world won’t be able to limit the effects.

smudges's avatar

That’s exactly what I was addressing in this question and what worries me…no one can stop any country from doing whatever the hell it wants if it really wants to. It’s like with any danger, guns for instance…not one thing can stop a person/s from going ballistic if they want to.

It’s a helpless feeling.

Thank you for getting to the real matter in my question. Perhaps I didn’t phrase it clearly enough and that’s why I got answers that didn’t satisfy me.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@smudges Don’t dwell on it. There’s not a damned thing you can do.

Either you become a nervous wreck worrying about something you can’t control, or you can put it out of your mind and live your life.

janbb's avatar

@smudges Smashley mentioned the IAEA giving approval in his answer but I guess it wasn’t clear what that meant. I understand you’re frustration though.

janbb's avatar

Edit: “your” not “you’re”

smudges's avatar

@janbb As I look back, I see you’re right, he mentioned it. Sorry about not acknowledging that @Smashley.

@elbanditoroso I don’t dwell on it for the most part; when I die, oh well, and when the earth ends that would certainly bother me if I was aware of it. But anything that involves animals will get in my head and nag at me and I try to find comfort, like asking if any group has the power to stop what I think is abuse. I feel better hearing about the IAEA and all I can do is hope that countries abide by the rules they set forth.

MrGrimm888's avatar


smudges's avatar

^^ By and large, I don’t trust any government agency, ours or anyone else’s, mostly due to that.

seawulf575's avatar

A citation for the story might be nice. But since there isn’t one, I can only talk about radioactive liquid releases in general.

Releases of radioactive liquids into the environment are generally controlled by oversight organizations. These set limits on amount and type of radioactive liquids that can be released. I say generally because I’m pretty sure China and probably N Korea do whatever the hell they want.

When a nuclear power plant releases potentially contaminated liquids into the environment, there is a huge process. Releases go on all the time from nuclear power plants. There are a number of reasons for them. But in general the process is all the same.

1) liquids that are desired to be released are first processed to help remove as much contamination as is reasonably possible (radioactive contamination).
2) The liquid is sampled and analyzed for radioactive components. Typically this involves looking for gamma, alpha and beta radiation as well as tritium. There are some methods for doing these and things like alpha, beta, and tritium may be done as a monthly composite. They can do this by showing historical evidence that if gamma activity is somewhere in the range of X, the alpha/beta/tritium are in the range of Y
3) The activity results are then processed into a formula to determine the potential impact on the environment based on the impact of dose to the public. This calculation takes into many factors such as what isotopes are present, how they may impact a person, method of impact to the person, etc. All these are assuming the worse case impact based on the isotopic mix of the sample. Example: Co-60 is considered an impact on the GI tract of an adult as the worst case whereas I-131 is considered a Thyroid impact on a child. If a sample contains both, the calculations determine impact of each isotope and then figures out which is the limiting factor based on potential damage to a human.
4) All the results are tracked for impact over time. There are limits for the release, for monthly, quarterly and annual impacts as well. All these limits are compared with the results of the proposed release being added in and if a release would end up exceeding a given limit it is not allowed to be released.

It should also be noted that not all radioactive isotopes are created the same. Some impact us more than others based on how they are absorbed into the body and what organ is being impacted the worst.

Additionally, it should always be remembered that news outlets LOVE nuclear power plants. They can write all sorts of stories that draw in readers/users. At one nuclear plant I worked at, the local paper ran an article on the front page that was entitled “ACCIDENT AT THE NUCLEAR PLANT”. The story was about a fender bender in the parking lot. And no, I’m not making that up.

smudges's avatar

@seawulf575 Thank you for your answer. I appreciate the details. I guess we have no choice but to trust that everyone involved is doing their job and isn’t high, drunk, incompetent, working for someone who wants to harm us, or otherwise impaired.

@all: Think of all the stories in the news over our own lifetime and I’m not talking about the ones that are news for the sake of news. Many of them are retrospective news like – we didn’t know that this would cause birth defects or cancer or whatever. So many lawsuits regarding medications, asbestos, mesothelioma, the water at Fort LeJeune, buried supposedly safe barrels of nuclear waste.

I’m not “screaming and shouting” just for the hell of it, although I’m not screaming and yelling at all. I’d just like some assurance that in 50–100 years we won’t find out that Japan or another country has released ‘safe’ water that has caused the extinction of many marine animals, or issues for humans because we ate the animals, swam in the ocean, etc. But I guess there is no assurance. There’s a difference between honest mistakes and cover-ups and unfortunately cover-ups happen every day, people are bought every day.

Sorry for the subject that so many seemed to dislike and so many others shied away from completely.

kritiper's avatar

@smudges You’re being too optimistic in your views of continued human survival. IMO, we have less than 250 years, and that’s being generous.
We live in a toilet bowl and we continue to pollute it. More and more humans only compound the problem!
Here’s another estimation about the survival of the human species: In less than 50 years, there will be no edible fish left in the oceans. And how many people survive on fish???

KNOWITALL's avatar

I will say the US still has a ton of clean up not done as of today. You should check out minority schools in St Louis, Mo for example.

seawulf575's avatar

@smudges As I mentioned, I can’t speak for China or N Korea, but most other countries have similar rules to the USA. And the nuclear power industry in this country is one of the most regulated industries in the world with all sorts of oversight groups looking at every aspect of operation. Environmental impact is high up on that list. And in general, the controls at the plant have a number of limits they have to meet at any given time. The NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) sets limits. INPO (Institute of Nuclear Power Operations) is an industry created/staffed organization that gives more oversight and inspections. They tend to give rules that are sort of “best practices” from around the industry to help move the whole industry forward. The Technical Specifications are the design/operating rules for the specific plant. They give guidance on how the plant is built and operated to meet all operating limits. And then there are local plant limits of operation that are put especially low to ensure we never come close to a NRC limit. And the operating philosophy is to always keep dose to the workers and to the public as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA).

smudges's avatar

@kritiper As you said, that’s your opinion.

smudges's avatar

sunnovabitch…I just lost what I wrote. Nevermind…all I’m saying is that I see no reason to trust all of the agencies that are supposed to be protecting us and our planet. Time and time again they’ve either been involved in crap themselves or let politicians satisfy their own agendas.

snowberry's avatar

This is a side note, but other people are watching as well.

While I was traveling up the West Coast about 9 years ago I met a man who made a nutritional supplement derived from seaweed. He was very concerned about the possibility of radioactive contamination as well as possible toxins finding their way into his product, so he was constantly testing for it. It was a very interesting conversation.

smudges's avatar

Case in point: Biden rule, heeding Supreme Court, could strip more than half of U.S wetlands’ protections

As a result of the decision, several types of waters will no longer be under federal protection, an EPA official said, including an estimated 1.2 million to 4.9 million miles of ephemeral streams. Up to 63 percent of wetlands by acreage in the United States could also be affected, the official added, citing mapping done by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

SABOTEUR's avatar


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