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Japan to release Fukushima water into sea

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TOKYO: Japan will release more than a million tonnes of treated water from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean, the government said on Tuesday, triggering a furious regional reaction and fierce opposition from local fishing communities.


The process is not likely to begin for several years and could take decades to complete, but China quickly slammed the decision as “extremely irresponsible” and South Korea summoned the Japanese ambassador.


Japan’s government argues the release is safe because the water is processed to remove almost all radioactive elements and will be diluted. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has endorsed the release, which it says is similar to the disposal of wastewater at nuclear plants elsewhere.


Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told a ministerial meeting that disposing of the water was an “inevitable task” in the decades-long process of decommissioning the nuclear plant.


He said the release would happen only “after ensuring the safety levels of the water” and alongside measures to “prevent reputational damage”.


Around 1.25 million tonnes of water have accumulated in tanks at the nuclear plant, which was crippled after going into meltdown following the 2011 tsunami.


It includes water used to cool the plant, as well as rain and groundwater that seeps in daily.


An extensive pumping and filtration system extracts tonnes of newly contaminated water each day and filters out most radioactive elements.


But local fishing communities fear releasing the water will undermine years of work to restore confidence in their seafood.


“They told us that they wouldn’t release the water into the sea without the support of fishermen’’, Kanji Tachiya, who heads a local fisheries cooperative in Fukushima, told NHK ahead of the announcement.


“We can’t back this move to break that promise and release the water into the sea unilaterally.”


Plant operator TEPCO will “take thorough measures to prevent bad rumours”, said its president Tomoaki Kobayakawa.


China’s foreign ministry slammed Japan’s decision, saying it had been taken “without regard for domestic and foreign doubts and opposition”.


“This approach is extremely irresponsible and will seriously damage international public health and safety’’, it said.


South Korea’s foreign ministry also called it “a risk to the maritime environment” and later announced it had summoned Japan’s ambassador. — AFP


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