Japan Begins Release of Treated Radioactive Water from Fukushima Plant into Pacific Ocean Despite Protests
Japan begins releasing treated radioactive water from Fukushima plant into the Pacific Ocean
The Japanese government has decided to release treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean, despite local and regional protests. This process is part of the decommissioning plan for the plant, which was severely damaged by a nuclear disaster caused by a tsunami in 2011. The Tokyo Electric Power Plant Operating Company (TEPCO) confirmed that the release of water began at 1:03 p.m. local time. However, this move has faced criticism from China, who called it “selfish and irresponsible”. China expressed concerns about the potential harm to the marine environment and public health, and has pledged to take measures to protect its waters. In response, Japan criticized China for spreading baseless allegations, and emphasized that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has deemed the impact of the water release to be minimal.
A process that takes decades
The Fukushima Daiichi plant was destroyed in 2011 after an earthquake and subsequent tsunamis caused three of its reactors to collapse. The decision to release the water has raised concerns among neighboring countries. Prime Minister Mark Brown of the Cook Islands acknowledged the scientific basis for Japan’s decision, but highlighted the complexity of the issue. Japanese fishing groups, who have already suffered reputational damage due to radiation concerns, have strongly opposed the plan, fearing it will further impact their sales and export restrictions. Hong Kong and Macau have announced bans on Japanese seafood from certain regions, including Tokyo and Fukushima. South Korea also continues to enforce an import ban on fisheries and food products from Fukushima, until public concerns are alleviated. The water will be released gradually, and the initial discharge will amount to approximately 7,800 cubic meters over a period of 17 days. Test results from TEPCO indicate that the water contains tritium levels below the World Health Organization’s drinking water limit.
Japan has assured the public that it will conduct regular monitoring of the water release area and publish the results weekly. TEPCO estimates that the entire process of releasing the wastewater, which currently exceeds 1.3 million metric tons, will take approximately 30 years. Civic groups in both Japan and South Korea have protested against the decision. South Korean police have detained at least 14 protesters who entered the Japanese embassy in Seoul. Prior to the release, a small group of demonstrators gathered in front of TEPCO’s headquarters in Tokyo to express their opposition. One protester stated that the fight against the long-term discharge of polluted water will continue.