Japan supports discharging wastewater into the ocean

August 24, 2023: Japan supports discharging wastewater into the ocean, putting into action a plan that includes attracted criticism from China.

The plan, approved two years ago by the Japanese state as crucial to decommissioning the plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company, has criticized local fishing companies, who fear reputational damage and a threat to their livelihood.

“I have asked Tepco to swiftly prepare for the water discharge by the plan approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, and expect the water release to start, weather conditions permitting,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stated on Tuesday.

Japan has said that the water release is safe. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, greenlighted the plan in July, saying that it met international standards and that its impact on people and the environment was “negligible.”

Still, some neighboring countries have expressed skepticism over the plan’s safety, with Beijing emerging as the most prominent critic. In July, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin stated that Japan had shown selfishness and vanity and had not fully consulted the international community about the water release.

China bans seafood imports from 10 prefectures in Japan, including Fukushima and Tokyo’s capital. Seafood imports from other areas are allowed but must pass radioactivity tests and prove they were produced outside the ten forbidden prefectures.

South Korean activists have also opposed the plan, although Seoul has concluded from its study that the water release meets international standards and said it respects the IAEA’s assessment.

Japan stated that the water would be filtered to remove most radioactive elements except tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that is tough to separate from water. The treated water will be diluted to well below internationally approved levels of tritium before being released into the Pacific.

The water was used to cool the fuel rods of Fukushima Daiichi after it melted down in an accident caused by a massive tsunami in 2011 that battered Japan’s eastern coast.

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