Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Sunday (20/8), his government had yet to decide when to start releasing treated wastewater from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean.
Media reports suggest that the disposal of some of the 1.34 million tons of water, which Japan says is safe, could start as soon as this month, despite anger from China and concern from other countries.
Speaking at the Fukushima site, which was destroyed by a tsunami in 2011 and one of the world’s worst atomic accidents, Kishida said he would first meet fishing industry officials to discuss their concerns.
“I must refrain from commenting on concrete timing for release to sea at this point, as the decision should be made after the government as a whole has looked at measures relating to safety and reputational damage (to the fishing industry),” Kishida told reporters. .
Many Japanese fishermen oppose the release, fearing it will undermine years of efforts to improve the industry’s image after the 2011 disaster. The wastewater, the equivalent of more than 500 Olympic swimming pools, has accumulated in the past 12 years from water used to cool three melting reactor, mixed with groundwater and rain.
According to power plant operator TEPCO, the hazardous radioactive elements have been filtered and the water that is planned to be released is in the safe category. This opinion has been supported by the UN atomic agency.
For months, Japan has tried to win public support at home and abroad, from showing live fish in the treated water to efforts to combat disinformation circulating online.
Public concern in South Korea about the plan remains high, but the government says its review of the plan found the process was in line with international standards. But China, which has a frosty relationship with Japan, has banned food imports from 10 Japanese prefectures and imposed strict radiation tests on food from other parts of the country.
The release of treated water — a maximum of 500,000 liters per day, TEPCO says — is only one stage of the cleanup.
A much more dangerous task awaited, namely to remove radioactive debris and highly dangerous nuclear fuel from the three reactors that had been destroyed. (s/f)