An aerial photo shows Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima Prefecture on April 7, 2021. The sapace for contaminated water tanks is running out in the near future. ( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )

Japan plan to discharge contaminated water concerns China, neighbors


Japan’s plan to discharge contaminated water from the now-defunct Fukushima nuclear power plant has been curdling the blood of its neighbors.

During yesterday’s press conference of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through spokesperson Wang Wenbin, China stated that the plan to discharge contaminated water into the ocean is of grave concern to them.

China Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin

Responding to Beijing Daily’s request for comment to reports that Tokyo Electric Power Company has began its underwater digging to construct an outlet for dumping nuclear-contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, Wang Wenbin said, “I have noted the report with deep concern. Pacific-rim countries, China included, have all voiced grave concern over and firm opposition to Japan’s erroneous decision of discharging the contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear accident into the ocean.”

Wang said that despite a petition signed by about 180,000 people from Fukushima and other regions in Japan asking for the government to consider options other than discharging into the ocean, he said TEPCO has turned a deaf ear to international concern and has reneged on its earlier “commitment of no-ocean discharge without public understanding.” Wang said the company persistently pushed forward construction works for the discharge. “Such attempts at creating a fait accompli are irresponsible. The Japanese government should step in and stop it.”

For Wang, “So far, the Japanese government has been unable to offer a thorough and convincing explanation on issues ranging from the legitimacy of the ocean discharge option to the reliability of relevant data, the efficacy of the treatment system and the uncertainty of environmental impact. This is a plain fact the Japanese side cannot sidestep. Again, we urge Japan to take seriously the legitimate and reasonable concerns of the international community and the Japanese people, revoke its wrong decision of dumping the nuclear contaminated water into the sea, stop pushing forward preparation for the ocean discharge, and earnestly fulfill its due international obligations.”

Plan rattled region in 2021

On April 13, 2021, the Japanese government announced the release into the Pacific Ocean of 1.25 million tons of treated wastewater contaminated by Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant following the massive earthquake-tsunami disaster that struck Japan in March 2011.

Moreover, TEPCO, which owns the power plant, eyes to undertake the cleanup in about 30 years, and is complicated by removal of debris and contaminated water and the concomitant costs. Decommissioning the four reactors of the nuclear plant alone, according to conservative estimates, could cost around $76 billion.

Meanwhile, last year, Greenpeace Japan, following the release of the statement from the government, had condemned the plan. “The Japanese government has once again failed the people of Fukushima. The government has taken the wholly unjustified decision to deliberately contaminate the Pacific Ocean with radioactive wastes. It has discounted the radiation risks and turned its back on the clear evidence that sufficient storage capacity is available on the nuclear site as well as in surrounding districts. Rather than using the best available technology to minimize radiation hazards by storing and processing the water over the long term, they have opted for the cheapest option, dumping the water into the Pacific Ocean.”

There were several protests and strong rebuke from South Korea in 2021. Expressing regret over what they called a unilateral decision by Japan, Koo Yoon-cheol, head of Office for Government Policy Coordination said, “This decision from the Japanese government is outright unacceptable.”

In April last year, the South Korean foreign ministry also summoned the Japanese envoy immediately following the release of the Japanese government’s statement regarding the plan.

In South Korea alone, the $9 billion fishing industry will be significantly impacted by the discharge of contaminated water.

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