Japan’s decision to start releasing treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean on Thursday has sparked a backlash from South Korea, which fears the move could harm its marine environment and public health.
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida defended the water release plan, saying that it was based on scientific evidence and international standards, and that it would have a “negligible” impact on people and the environment. He said that Japan had provided sufficient explanations and consultations to South Korea and other countries, and that it would continue to do so in a transparent manner.
Japan’s government has repeatedly said that the discharge of the treated water is safe and necessary to decommission the Fukushima nuclear plant, which was damaged by a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The water has been treated to remove most radioactive elements, except for tritium, which Japan says is harmless in low concentrations. The water will be diluted before being released into the sea over several decades.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has endorsed Japan’s plan, saying that it aligns with international safety standards and best practices. The IAEA has also sent a team of experts to monitor the water release process and verify Japan’s compliance with its obligations.
However, South Korea is not convinced by Japan’s assurances, and has expressed doubts about the credibility and validity of Japan’s data and methods. South Korea has also raised concerns about the potential impact of the water release on its fishing industry, seafood consumption, tourism and public perception. South Korea has banned imports of seafood from parts of Japan, including Fukushima, since 2013.
The water release plan has added to the existing tensions between Japan and South Korea, which have been strained by historical disputes over wartime issues such as forced labor and sexual slavery. The two countries have also clashed over trade restrictions, territorial claims and military cooperation in recent years.
The water release plan could further erode the trust and cooperation between Japan and South Korea, which are both key allies of the United States in the region. The US has urged both countries to improve their relations and work together to address common challenges such as North Korea’s nuclear threat and China’s growing influence.