TOKYO (AP) — Japan will begin discharging treated and diluted radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean as early as Thursday — a controversial move the government says has made up for the decades of work required to close the plant , is essential had a reactor meltdown 12 years ago.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida gave the final go-ahead at a meeting of cabinet ministers involved in the plan on Tuesday, instructing the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, to be ready to begin shore clearance on Thursday subject to weather and sea conditions allow.
Kishida said at the meeting that the release of the water is critical to the progress of the power plant’s decommissioning and Fukushima Prefecture’s recovery from the March 11, 2011 disaster.
He said The government has done everything for now to ensure the safety of the plan, protect the reputation of Japan’s fishing industry, and clearly explain the scientific basis to gain understanding inside and outside the country. He pledged that the government will continue these efforts until the end of release and decommissioning, which will take decades.
“The government will take responsibility until the disposal of the ALPS-treated water is complete, even if it will take several decades,” Kishida said.
A severe earthquake and tsunami destroyed the cooling systems of the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant, melting three of its reactors and contaminating their cooling water. The water, now 1.34 million tons, will be collected, filtered and stored in around 1,000 tanks, which will fill much of the plant’s premises and will reach capacity in early 2024.
The discharge of the treated wastewater met with fierce opposition from Japanese fisheries organizations, which fear the reputation of their seafood will be further tarnished as they struggle to recover from the nuclear disaster. Groups in South Korea and China have also raised concerns, turning it into a political and diplomatic issue.
The government and TEPCO say the water must be removed to make room for the plant to be decommissioned and to prevent accidental spills from the tanks.
said Junichi Matsumoto, TEPCO manager responsible for water release in an interview with The Associated Press Last month, the company said the water release represented a “milestone” but was still just a first step in a daunting decommissioning process.
The government and TEPCO say the water is treated and then diluted with seawater to levels safer than international standards.
TEPCO plans to release 7,800 tons of treated water in the 17-day first release round, Matsumoto said.
TEPCO plans to release 31,200 tons of the treated water by the end of March 2024, which would empty only 10 tanks at the site. The pace will pick up later.
The seawater and marine life will be tested and the results will be published on the government and TEPCO websites.
The International Atomic Energy Agency in a final report concluded in July that the release, if carried out as planned, will have negligible impacts on the environment and human health. Taking into account the potential bioconcentration of low-dose radionuclides still remaining in the water, the environmental and health impacts are still negligible, TEPCO officials said.
Scientists generally support the IAEA’s view, but some say the long-term effects of the small amount of radioactivity remaining in the water must be considered.
The Kishida government has stepped up publicity to explain the plan to neighboring countries, particularly South Korea, to prevent the issue from affecting their ties.
Kishida said efforts had made progress and the international community was largely calm about the plan. Still, Hong Kong announced it would suspend exports from Fukushima and nine other prefectures if Japan goes through with the plan, while China has stepped up radiation testing on Japanese fishery products, delaying customs clearance.
TEPCO said it is working to accept a claim for damages caused by China’s export restrictions on Japanese seafood.