Japan to dump contaminated water from Fukushima nuclear station into sea

Daniel Fowler
April 13, 2021

The release is unlikely to begin for at least two years but has already sparked opposition from local fishing communities and concern in Beijing and Seoul.

Cabinet ministers endorsed the release as the best option for handling the massive amount of water that has been stored at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant since the massive natural disaster and tsunami in 2011 caused reactor meltdowns and leaks of cooling water from the damaged reactors.

Photo taken from a Kyodo News helicopter on February 14, 2021, shows the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant crippled in the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, with tanks storing treated water containing low-toxicity radioactive tritium lined on the premises.

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.

It includes water used to cool the plant, as well as rain and groundwater that seeps in daily.

"They told us that they wouldn't release the water into the sea without the support of fishermen", Kanji Tachiya, who heads a local fishery cooperative in Fukushima, told NHK ahead of the announcement.

"We can't back this move to break that promise and release the water into the sea unilaterally".

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

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"This approach is extremely irresponsible and will seriously damage worldwide public health and safety", it said.

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

Noting that the Fukushima nuclear accident is one of the most serious ones in the world so far, the spokesperson said that the accident caused a large amount of radioactive material to leak, which has had a profound impact on the marine environment, food safety and human health. It's not something new.

Grossi said the IAEA had taken note of the concerns of relevant parties within the board with mounting global attention to this matter, and the agency will actively advance its work on the assessment and monitoring activities in an impartial, objective and scientific manner.

"We strongly urge the Japanese side to recognize its responsibilities, adopt a scientific attitude, fulfill its worldwide obligations and respond to the serious concerns of the global community, neighboring countries and its own people", said the spokesperson.

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

The ALPS filtration process removes most radioactive elements from the water, but some remain, including tritium.

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