Fukushima Water: The New Energy Drink Is So Hot, It’s Radioactive

Watch out—H20 laced with a dose of cesium-137 might not give you the health results you’re looking for.
Mar 23, 2015·
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

It’s not sold in any stores, but it’s sure to become the next to-die-for product exported from Japan: Get ready for Fukushima Water, the hot new radioactive stimulant. At least, it is in this slightly horrifying parody of energy drink commercials—and if it has your attention, well, that’s the whole point.

The clip, created by a trio of Berlin-based art directors, is designed to get us thinking about an issue they think hasn’t gotten enough attention. It’s been four years since three nuclear reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi melted down following an earthquake and tsunami, and radiation is still leaking into the Pacific Ocean.

“We were blown away by how weird it was that contaminated water is still being poured into the Pacific Ocean and that people have no idea,” Kenzi Benabdallah, one of the creators of the Fukushima Water awareness campaign, told The Guardian.

While we may worry about fish caught in the Pacific being contaminated by Fukushima radiation or West Coast beaches being affected, it’s the water closest to the nuclear plant that some scientists are concerned about. It contains high levels of the radioactive isotopes cesium-137 and cesium-134.

As the Fukushima disaster fades from memory, most people don’t realize that volumes of water are still needed to keep the three reactors cool. Without that water, radioactive particles will be released into the air. Officials don’t know what else to do with the stuff once it’s been run past the reactors’ cores, so they effectively dump it in the ocean. Everybody seems totally OK with this non-plan. Hence, the birth of Fukushima Water.

“The water needs to be stored because it’s highly contaminated,” Stefan Wittemann, another of the effort’s creators, told The Guardian. “But [the tanks used to store the water] are leaking, and water is running into the ocean. The exact numbers are very hard to get because the Tokyo Electric Power Company [which owns the power plant] will not tell you anything and Greenpeace will tell you a super-high number.”

This lack of disclosure on the part of the power company brings to mind the film Erin Brockovich. There’s that scene toward the end of the movie where Brockovich, portrayed by Julia Roberts, tells lawyers working for Pacific Gas and Electric that the water in the meeting room is brought in “specifically for you folks.” No one wants to drink a refreshing glass of H20 because they’re terrified that it’s contaminated with hexavalent chromium—but they were happy to let the public drink chemical-laced water for years.

So regardless of where you stand on whether we should be worried about radiation on this side of the Pacific, this video certainly highlights the need for greater transparency about what’s really going on at Fukushima.