Taiwan has warned Japan not to dump radioactive water from the burned-out reactor cores at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima into the nearby ocean, fearing prevailing currents may eventually push the polluted water to its own shores.

In March 2011, a devastating tsunami triggered by an undersea tremor buffeted the major nuclear base supplying power to Tokyo, and the apocalyptic disaster made a large swathe of the neighboring areas uninhabitable as well as a spillover of polluted dust into the capital city.

Taiwan’s Atomic Energy Council (AEC) fears that currents could carry polluted water across the Pacific Ocean to the coastline as far as North America, which may flow back to Taiwan in three to six years.

The AEC said on Tuesday it would file a complaint with the Japanese government if it decided to discharge the radioactive water into the sea, but it also stressed that Japanese officials and scientists had not yet reached a consensus on what to do with the staggering amount of contaminated water.

The mangled wreckage of Unit 3 is seen at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture. Photo: Reuters/ Kyodo
The mangled wreckage of Unit 3 at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture. Photo: Reuters/ Kyodo

Japan’s environmental protection ministry and Tokyo Electric Power Co which owns the mangled nuclear reactors in Fukushima say the one-million-tonne storage of radioactive water used to cool the reactors to prevent further meltdown would be filled to the brim within three years.

Japan is mulling a plan to release part of the less radioactive waste water – reportedly 10,000 tonnes – into the sea, an idea that instantly stoked fears in neighboring countries, including Taiwan and South Korea.

If the water from the reactors enters the Pacific Ocean, it would first be carried by currents to North America from Alaska, Canada’s British Columbia all the way down to California, before moving southward and reaching Taiwan in three to six years, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Germany-based Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research.

That said, it is believed that by the time the radioactive water returned to Asia and reached Taiwan, the pollutants would have been attenuated to a concentration of nearly one in 10,000, far less harmful after the dilution process in the vast Pacific Ocean.

The island’s nuclear energy watchdog says that water and fishery products in nine ports across Taiwan are regularly sampled to test for radioactivity, without having any abnormal findings so far.

Taipower’s No 4 Nuclear Plant, near Taipei, is now tentatively mothballed. Photo: blogspot.com

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s green groups are fearing a repeat of the Fukushima disaster on the island if the government presses ahead with its plan to resume construction of a now-mothballed nuclear power plant close to a cluster of fault lines on the outskirts of Taipei.

A geological survey by the government has identified up to five active fault lines near the No 4 Nuclear Power Plant owned by Taiwan Power Co in New Taipei City, and the shaky ground and coastline location mean the nuclear project is prone to the Daiichi plant scenario in a seismically active area and should be put on ice for good, say opponents of the project.

Taiwan has debated whether the No 4 Plant project using Hitachi-made reactors should proceed as planned, which has been suspended since 2014, but Kuomintang party presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu has stated his support for it to quench Taiwan’s thirst for power.

Read more: Taiwan debates what to do with redundant nuclear fuel rods 

Idea of Taiwan-made nukes has historical resonance