The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant will begin discharging treated and diluted radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean as early as Thursday, a controversial step that the government says is crucial to the decades-long work needed to clean up the facility after a reactor meltdown 12 years ago. important.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida gave final approval to the plan Tuesday at a meeting of cabinet ministers involved in the plan, and instructed operator Tokyo Electric Power Co Holdings (TEPCO) to prepare to start coastal releases on Thursday, weather and sea conditions permitting.
Kishida said at the meeting that the release of water is a key step in the decommissioning of the nuclear power plant and the recovery of Fukushima Prefecture from the disaster of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
He said the government had made every effort to ensure the safety of the program and protect the reputation of Japan’s fishing industry, and clearly explained the scientific basis for the move. He promised the government would continue those efforts until the release and decommissioning was over, which would take decades.
“The government will take responsibility until the treatment of ALPS-treated water is completed, even if it takes decades,” Kishida said.
In Seoul, Park Ku-yeon, First Deputy Minister of the South Korean Government Policy Coordination Office, told a briefing that officials confirmed that Japan would discharge wastewater in accordance with its initial plan.
Park said that if the plan is not followed, South Korea will demand that Japan stop its emissions immediately, which could threaten the safety of South Koreans. Opposition lawmakers and activists protested strongly, demanding that Japan scrap the plan immediately.
Hong Kong and Macau announced bans on imports of products from Fukushima and nine other prefectures in response to Tokyo’s announcement on Tuesday, while China stepped up radiation testing of Japanese seafood, delaying customs clearance.
The massive earthquake and tsunami knocked out the cooling system at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, causing three reactors to melt down and polluting the cooling water. 1.34 million tons of water have been collected, filtered and stored in some 1,000 tanks, which fill most of the plant’s grounds and will reach their capacity in early 2024.
The discharge of the treated wastewater has drawn strong opposition from Japan’s fishing groups, which fear further damage to the reputation of its seafood as it tries to recover from the nuclear disaster. Groups in South Korea and China have also raised concerns and turned them into political and diplomatic issues.
The government and TEPCO say the water must be removed to make room for decommissioning the plant and to prevent accidental leaks from the tanks.
TEPCO executive Junichi Matsumoto, who is in charge of releasing the water, said in an interview with The Associated Press last month that the release marked “a milestone” but was still only the first step in a arduous decommissioning process.
The government and TEPCO say the water will be treated and then diluted with seawater to a level that is safer than international standards.
TEPCO plans to release 7,800 tons of treated water in the first 17-day release, Matsumoto said, adding that the idea was not to rush the release and minimize environmental impact. The company aims to release 31,200 tonnes of treated water by the end of March 2024, which will only empty 10 tanks on site. The tempo picks up later.
Seawater and marine organisms will be tested and the results will be published on government and TEPCO websites.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded in a final report in July that if released as designed, there would be negligible impacts on the environment and human health. TEPCO officials said the impact on the environment and health would still be negligible considering the possibility of bioconcentration of low doses of radionuclides remaining in the water.
IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement on Tuesday that the UN agency’s office, which was established at the plant in July, would continue to monitor the water discharge for compliance with safety standards and issued a statement Monitor data and other information in real time.
Scientists generally support the IAEA’s view, but some say the long-term effects of low levels of radioactivity remaining in the water require attention.
The Kishida government has ramped up publicity efforts to explain the plan to neighboring countries, especially South Korea, to prevent the issue from disrupting relations between the two countries.
Tepco said it was trying to accept claims for damages caused by China’s restrictions on exports of seafood to Japan.