SEOUL – Thousands of South Koreans took to the streets of Seoul on Saturday to demand that their government take action against Japan’s decision to release treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.
The protesters, who were organized by the Korea Radiation Watch group, expressed their concerns about the potential environmental and health impacts of the water discharge, which began on Thursday. They held signs and banners that read “Stop Japan’s nuclear terrorism” and “Save the Pacific from radioactive contamination”.
According to the organizers, about 30,000 people participated in the rally, which was one of the largest anti-nuclear demonstrations in South Korea in recent years. The protesters also urged the government to file a lawsuit against Japan at the International Court of Justice and to ban imports of Japanese seafood.
Japan and scientific organizations say the water is safe, as it has been filtered to remove most radioactive isotopes, except for tritium, which is considered harmless in low concentrations. Japan’s fisheries agency said on Saturday that fish tested in waters around the plant did not contain detectable levels of tritium.
However, many South Koreans are skeptical about the safety and necessity of the water release, which is expected to take decades to complete. They fear that the water could contaminate the marine ecosystem and affect the local fishing industry, as well as pose a long-term risk to human health.
“Nobody can tell what’s going to happen to the marine ecosystem in the next 100 years,” said Choi Kyoungsook, a representative of the Korea Radiation Watch group.
Japan says it needs to start releasing the water as storage tanks holding about 1.3 million metric tons of it – enough to fill 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools – are full. The water has been distilled after being contaminated from contact with fuel rods at the reactor, destroyed in a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The first discharge of 7,800 cubic meters – equivalent