Japan to start releasing treated Fukushima water into sea in 2 years

Marco Green
April 13, 2021

"It would be hard to accept the release into the sea if the Japanese side makes a decision without sufficient consultation", the spokesman said, adding South Korea will "respond by strengthening cooperation" with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The company has been using a makeshift system of pumps and piping to inject water into damaged reactor vessels to keep melted uranium fuel rods cool. The Japanese government has announced on April 13 its decision on the disposal of treated radiation-contaminated water accumulated at the property of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex.

Japan has argued the water release is necessary to press ahead with the complex decommissioning of the plant after it was crippled by a 2011 quake and tsunami, pointing out that similarly filtered water is routinely released from nuclear plants around the world.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Monday it formally relayed its "serious concern" to Japan following media reports the government was set to make the decision, urging Tokyo not to "overlook or shrug off" criticism from the worldwide community.

Arguing Tokyo has come under criticism globally over the issue, "Japan can not overlook or shrug off" such a fact and "should not hurt the marine environment, food safety and human health anymore", the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

"This approach is extremely irresponsible and will seriously damage worldwide public health and safety and the vital interests of the people of neighbouring countries", the foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.

A Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry subcommittee concluded in February 2020 that releasing the tritiated water into the sea and evaporating it were both realistic options, with the former more technically feasible.

South Korea's foreign ministry also called it "a risk to the maritime environment".

The U.S. State Department said in a website that Japan "has been transparent about its decision" on the Fukushima water release and that it "appears to have adopted an approach in accordance with globally accepted nuclear safety standards".

Work takes places in the damaged No. 4 reactor unit in 2013
Work takes places in the damaged No. 4 reactor unit in 2013 Credit EPA

Debate over how to handle the water has dragged on for years, as space to store it at the site runs out.

"Releasing into the ocean is done elsewhere". It's not something new. "There is no scandal here", IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi said previous year.

Anti-nuclear activist group Greenpeace slammed Japan's government for having "once again failed the people of Fukushima".

"The cabinet's decision failed to protect the environment and neglected the large-scale opposition and concerns of the local Fukushima residents, as well as the neighbouring citizens around Japan", said climate and energy campaigner Kazue Suzuki. The process, however, can not remove tritium, a radioactive byproduct of nuclear reactors.

Government spokesman Katsonobu Kato said Tuesday that the water would be diluted to contain tritium at levels far below either domestic or World Health Organization standards, with the IAEA monitoring the process.

Some scientists say the long-term impact on marine life from low-dose exposure to such large volumes of water is unknown.

"Releasing the water into the ocean will return to haunt us", they said.

The government has said it will do the utmost to support local fisheries, and the report said TEPCO would compensate for damages if they occur despite those efforts.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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