Last Updated on July 26, 2023 by Robert C. Hoopes
Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant to Discharge Treated Radioactive Water into the Sea Despite Protests
Fukushima, Japan – In a highly controversial move, the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is set to begin releasing treated radioactive wastewater into the sea in the coming weeks. The decision has sparked fierce protests both within Japan and internationally, as residents express concerns over the potential damage to Fukushima’s image, businesses, and livelihoods.
Although officials claim that the possible impact of the water discharge would be limited, many residents remain unconvinced and feel helpless in the face of the government’s safety awareness campaign. Fukushima’s local government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) have grappled with how to manage the contaminated water that has been accumulating since the nuclear disaster in 2011.
Under the plan, the water will be treated, diluted, and released into the Pacific Ocean through an undersea tunnel. Officials assert that this method is safer than what is required by national and international standards. However, this has done little to ease the concerns of local business owners, including innkeepers and seafood business owners, who worry about the impact on their livelihoods.
The fishing community, tourism sector, and economy in Fukushima are still in the process of recovering from the nuclear disaster. Consequently, fishing organizations in Japan, South Korea, and China vehemently oppose the water release. Furthermore, Hong Kong has vowed to ban the import of aquatic products from Fukushima and other Japanese prefectures if the discharge takes place.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently released a report stating that the method adopted by Japan meets international standards. The agency argues that the environmental and health impacts of the treated water would be negligible. While the scientific consensus leans towards minimal environmental impact, some scientists call for further attention to the low-dose radionuclides that remain in the water.
TEPCO and government officials primarily characterize the issue as one of tritium contamination, although the treated water also contains other leaked radionuclides from the damaged fuel. Nevertheless, the release of the treated water is viewed as a less challenging task compared to the daunting decommissioning process and the continuous, albeit smaller, leaks of radioactivity from the reactors.
Local fisheries cooperatives highlight a lack of public understanding and trust in the government and TEPCO. They warn that the release of the water without public support could result in severe reputational damage and harm Fukushima’s fisheries.
As the controversy surrounding the water discharge intensifies, it remains to be seen whether the Japanese government will address the concerns of its citizens and international communities or proceed with its plan to release the treated wastewater into the sea.