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Environmental activists wearing a mask of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and protective suits perform to denounce the Japanese government's decision on Fukushima water, near the Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea

Grave concerns raised as Japan announces release of radioactive water into the sea

Originally published: Morning Star (April 2021)   | 

JAPAN has come under fire after its government announced today that it would release more than a million metric tonnes of radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed grave concerns over the plans, which will see the wastewater released in the next two years, saying that Japan had failed to consult with neighbouring countries and the international community.

“Japan has … unilaterally decided to discharge nuclear wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident into the sea, which is extremely irresponsible and will seriously damage international public health and safety and the vital interests of people in neighbouring countries,” a statement said.

Opposition to the plans has also been raised in Japan by local fishermen. The process is expected to last decades, according to the government.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said that it was necessary to deal with the issue of the treated water in order to decommission the plant, more than a decade after the 2011 disaster.

“We have decided that guaranteeing safety far above the accepted standard and ensuring the entire government’s best efforts to prevent reputational damage means releasing it to the ocean is a realistic option,” he said.

Power at the Fukushima Daiichi plant was cut off following an earthquake and tsunami, damaging three reactor cores. Cooling water was pumped in to stop the reactors from melting but was contaminated by the uranium rods.

The water has been stored in tanks but the Japanese government offered assurances that it will be treated to remove most of the radioactive material before being released.

The process will be monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose director-general Rafael Mariano claimed there was “no harm” in releasing treated water into the sea.

“It is not like you are going to see the sea glowing in purple or green, and all fish will be dead, and the Pacific Ocean will be killed. Of course not,” he said, adding that the IAEA would not authorise an operation that would be harmful to the environment.

But South Korea’s government also expressed concern over the plan, which it said could “directly or indirectly affect the safety of the Korean people and the surrounding environment in the future.”

Foreign affairs spokesman Choi Young Sam told a news briefing that it would be difficult for the government to accept the operation since the Japanese decision was made without sufficient consultation.

Seoul said it would intensify its radioactivity monitoring and strengthen its co-operation with the IAEA and the international community.

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