Japan has announced that it will begin releasing treated radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean from Thursday, August 24, despite opposition from neighboring countries, fishing communities, and environmental groups.
The decision was made by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his cabinet on Tuesday after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) endorsed the plan in July and said that it would have a “negligible” impact on people and the environment.
The Fukushima Daiichi plant suffered a triple meltdown in March 2011, following a massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan’s northeast coast. Since then, more than one million tons of water have been used to cool the damaged reactors and prevent further leaks of radioactive material. The water has been treated to remove most of the radioactive elements, except for tritium, a hydrogen isotope that cannot be filtered out by existing technology.
The water is currently stored in more than 1,000 tanks at the plant site, but space is running out and authorities say they need to dispose of the water to make room for the decommissioning process, which is expected to take decades. The water will be diluted to meet international standards and released gradually through an underground tunnel into the ocean, about 1 kilometer away from the plant.
The government and the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), have assured that the water release is safe and poses no threat to human health or marine life. They have also pledged to compensate the fishing industry for any losses or damages caused by the plan. However, the plan has faced strong resistance from local fishers, who fear that their products will be shunned by consumers and that their livelihoods will be ruined. They have also expressed doubts about the transparency and accuracy of the government’s data and monitoring system.
The plan has also drawn criticism from some of Japan’s neighbors, especially China and South Korea, who have raised concerns about the potential environmental and health risks of the water release. They have also accused Japan of violating international law and ignoring the interests of other countries in the region. Some environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, have also opposed the plan and called for alternative solutions, such as building more storage tanks or finding ways to remove tritium from the water.
The water release is expected to take about two years to complete, depending on weather conditions and other factors. The IAEA will send a team of experts to Japan later this year to monitor and verify the implementation of the plan.