Fukushima water release could change human DNA, Greenpeace warns

To cool fuel cores at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, operator TEPCO has pumped in tens of thousands of tons of water over the years, but now, the water needs disposing of.

(CNN)Contaminated water that could soon be released into the sea from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant contains radioactive carbon with the potential to damage human DNA, environmental rights organization Greenpeace has warned.

The environmental group claims that the 1.23 million metric tons of water stored at the plant -- scene of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster -- contains "dangerous" levels of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 and other "hazardous" radionuclides, which it says will have "serious long-term consequences for communities and the environment" if the water is released into the Pacific Ocean.
To cool fuel cores at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has pumped in tens of thousands of tons of water over the years. Once used, the water is put into storage.
    But nine years on from Japan's worst nuclear disaster, storage space is running out, and the government is still deciding what to do with the water.
    Authorities, including the country's environment minister, have indicated the only solution is to release it into the ocean -- a plan facing opposition from environmental campaigners and fishing industry representatives.
    On Friday, the Japanese government postponed a decision on what to do with the water. In a task force meeting, Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said: "In order to avoid the delay in decommission process of Fukushima Daiichi, we need to make a decision how to deal with the processed water that increases every day," but acknowledged that authorities needed to address "voices of concern."
    In a report released Friday, Greenpeace said the water, in addition to radioactive isotope tritium, contains radioactive isotope carbon-14, which is "major contributor to collective human radiation dose and has the potential to damage human DNA."
    Shaun Burnie, author of the report and senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany, told CNN there could be as much as 63.6GBq (gigabecquerels) of carbon-14 in total in the tanks.
    Germany is closing all its nuclear power plants. Now it must find a place to bury the deadly waste for 1 million years