Japan’s government on Tuesday (April 13) said it will release more than 1 million tonnes of contaminated water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear station into the sea, in a decision that drew swift condemnation from neighbours including China, which called it “extremely irresponsible.”
In a statement on China’s foreign ministry’s website, a spokesman said Japan should refrain from initiating the discharge until it has consulted and reached agreement with all stakeholder countries and the International Atomic Energy Agency. China reserves the right to respond further to the release of contaminated water, the spokesman said in the statement.
The International Atomic Energy Agency supports the decision, since radioactive elements, except tritium, will be removed from the water or reduced to safe levels before it is discharged.
Experts say tritium is only harmful to humans in large doses and with dilution the treated water poses no scientifically detectable risk. But local fishing communities say the water’s release will undo years of hard work to rebuild consumer confidence in their seafood.
The work to release the water will begin in about two years and is expected to take decades with
plant operator Tokyo Electric Power handling the process.
The water (nearly 1.3 million tonnes), equivalent to about 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools, has been treated but needs to be filtered again to remove harmful isotopes. It will also be diluted to meet international standards before any release into the ocean.
Japan has argued the water release is necessary to press ahead with the complex decommissioning of the plant after it was devastated in a tsunami triggered by one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded, pointing out that similarly filtered water is routinely released from nuclear plants around the world.
Five special rapporteurs from the United Nations said last month that the contaminated water remained a risk and that the ocean discharge plan could not be an “acceptable solution”.
Japanese officials have objected to media descriptions of the water as “contaminated” or “radioactive”, insisting that it be described as “treated”.
With reporting by Reuters, AFP, The Guardian