Japan to release Fukushima water into ocean despite protests and concerns



Japan will start releasing more than 1 million tonnes of treated radioactive water into the ocean from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant on August 24, said Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday at a meeting of Cabinet ministers involved in the plan.

The water will initially be released in smaller portions and with extra checks, with the first discharge totaling 7,800 cubic meters over about 17 days starting Thursday, said the plant's operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).

That water will contain about 190 becquerels of tritium per liter, below the World Health Organization drinking water limit of 10,000 becquerels per liter, according to TEPCO. A becquerel is a unit of radioactivity.

The company aims to release 31,200 tonnes 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 plan, approved two years ago by the Japanese government, has faced criticism at home and abroad.

The release of the treated wastewater has faced strong opposition from Japanese fishing organizations, which worry about further damage to the reputation of their seafood as they struggle to recover from the nuclear disaster.

Masanobu Sakamoto, the head of the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations, said on Monday that the group's opposition to the plan had "not changed one bit," adding that they understood the release could be scientifically safe but still feared reputational damage.

A total of 88.1 percent of residents surveyed expressed concerns over the government's plan to discharge treated radioactive wastewater into the ocean, according to the latest opinion poll conducted by the national news agency Kyodo.

Hong Kong and Macao announced that they are banning products from Fukushima and nine other prefectures in response to Tokyo's announcement, the Chinese special administrative regions said Tuesday. And on July 7, China's General Administration of Customs announced to ban imports of food from 10 of Japan's prefectures, including Fukushima.

South Korea said in a statement released Tuesday that it sees no problem with the scientific or technical aspects of the plan, but did not necessarily agree with or support it.

Lee Jae-myung, the Democratic Party chief, delivered the letter via the Japanese embassy in Seoul on July 28, calling for Kishida to hold off on releasing radioactive wastewater. Lee expressed South Korean people's concern for and opposition to the discharge plan with five proposals, such as launching a standing consultative body for environmental impact assessment, and finding safe alternatives together through cooperation with the international community.

On Tuesday, Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of International Atomic Energy Agency, said in a statement that the UN agency office opened at the plant in July will continue monitoring the water release so it remains consistent with the safety standards and publish real-time monitoring data and other information.