Japan plans to release more than 1 million tonnes of treated water from the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant into the ocean, Tokyo said yesterday, triggering a furious regional reaction and fierce opposition from local fishing communities.
The process is not likely to begin for several years and could take decades to complete, but China quickly slammed the decision as “extremely irresponsible,” while South Korea summoned the Japanese ambassador.
The Japanese government argues that the release is safe because the water is processed to remove almost all radioactive elements.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has endorsed the release, which it says is similar to the disposal of wastewater at nuclear plants elsewhere.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told a ministerial meeting that disposing of the water was an “inevitable task” in the decades-long process of decommissioning the nuclear power plant.
Suga said the release would happen only “after ensuring the safety levels of the water” and alongside measures to “prevent reputational damage.”
About 1.25 million tonnes of water have accumulated in tanks at the plant, which was crippled after going into meltdown following an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
An extensive pumping and filtration system extracts tonnes of newly contaminated water each day and filters out most radioactive elements, but local fishing communities fear releasing the water would undermine years of work to restore confidence in their seafood.
“They told us that they wouldn’t release the water into the sea without the support of fishers,” Kanji Tachiya, who heads a local fisheries cooperative in Fukushima, told NHK ahead of the announcement. “We can’t back this move to break that promise and release the water into the sea unilaterally.”
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs slammed the decision, saying it had been taken “without regard for domestic and foreign doubts and opposition.”
“This approach is extremely irresponsible, and will seriously damage international public health and safety,” it said.
The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs called it “a risk to the maritime environment” and later announced it had summoned the Japanese ambassador.
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