Fukushima's Radioactive Water: Lasting Threat to Humans?

The meltdown of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant, caused by the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 2011, represents the most severe nuclear power accident of the 21st century so far.
However, a new study highlights how the decision by the Japanese government to begin releasing the radioactive water stored within it - a decision approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - has generated scientific and public debate, given its potential to cause environmental harm for decades to come.
Writing in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, researchers say the water cannot be stored indefinitely due to the ongoing risk of earthquakes and tsunamis in the region.
But they say not enough is known about the long-term impacts of tritium - the primary radionuclide present, with a half-life of 12.6 years - to ascertain if the release of more than one million tons of water can be considered safe or not.
As a result, they have called for assurances that regular monitoring will be carried out in different components of the region's ecosystem to examine any impacts the release might be having on the environment.
They have also suggested more evidence is needed about the future effects of tritium in the presence of multiple and emerging stressors, such as hypoxia, rising ocean temperatures, and microplastics, given that environmental contamination can occur in many combinations.
The study was carried out at the University of Plymouth, where researchers have been examining the environmental impacts of radioactive material for almost three decades.
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