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Ice walls are not a solution, Japan

Since March 2011, toxic nuclear waste has been spreading to the Pacific Ocean from Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant when it was hit by an earthquake and tsunami. Earlier this month, Japan finally announced a $320 million plan to create an underwater “ice wall” to prevent toxic water from spreading. Two years too late.

In an interview with PBS Newshour, Arjun Makhijanie, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, referred to the ice wall as an experiment. Makhijanie said building an ice wall that locks toxic water is risky due to the possibility of the wall melting or being destroyed by another natural disaster.

Earlier this August, Tokyo Electric Power Co. acknowledged overlooking signs of leaks and exposing their workers to high radioactive levels.

TEPCO also admitted an approximate 300 tons of radioactive water is released daily from the power plant. The possibility of more leaks near storage tanks used to hold toxic water from the three damaged reactors also exists.

It is irresponsible for Japan to take its sweet time attempting to stop the nuclear leak with an experiment that may not work. With the leak spreading across the Pacific Ocean, ocean life, the health of the Japanese and citizens around the world is at risk.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Ken Buesseler, a marine chemist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution said the rise of tritium and strontium-90 is dangerous. Buesseler said that strontium gathers in fish bones and remains even after the fish is consumed. He also agrees the ice wall is unrealistic and releasing purified water back into the ocean would be a safer bet.

Japan’s efforts to stop the leak seem to have other motives besides wanting to stop an environmental disaster. For one, it seemed like a last minute attempt to win the bid to host the 2020 Olympics, which Tokyo in fact won last Saturday.

In addition, the last minute effort is also a way for the pro-nuclear party to remain in power. In an interview with PBS, Kenji Kushida, a specialist of Japanese studies at Stanford University, said that if the party shows they are not able to manage nuclear power, they would lose the support of its people. Leaving an environmental crisis to a political party and company is dangerous. Japan needs to develop more ideas instead of putting all their money on an experiment that is not permanent and may fail. The time to act is now, before radioactive waste contaminates other countries’ water supply.

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