Disasters & Accidents

Japan likely to release treated Fukushima water in spring or summer

Tokyo, Jan 13 (EFE).- The Japanese government announced Friday that the long-planned release of treated water accumulated at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant will take place between the upcoming spring and summer, despite opposition by local fishermen.

On Jan 13, the government approved a revised plan for the release, which also includes compensations for the fishing industry that could be affected by the step.

Neighboring countries like South Korea and China have also protested against the proposed spill.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is supervising Japan’s plan to discharge the water once it is processed and most of the radioactive elements are removed.

The agency will send its fourth delegation to Japan next week to review the on-ground preparations.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said after a cabinet meeting, in which the plan was approved, that before proceeding with the release, they will wait for the IAEA to release its general report, strengthen supervisory capabilities and work against the spreading of negative information.

Matsuno, who estimated the exact release date to be between spring and summer of 2023, said that the water will be discharged in the Pacific Ocean once the preparations for the release, the research by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) and IAEA’s report are all completed.

Japanese authorities and the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), had initially planned to proceed with the release in April 2022.

However, this date was postponed due to the delay in the construction of an underwater tunnel that will be used to discharge the treated water one kilometer (0.6 miles) offshore.

About 1.29 million cubic meters of the water, which is contaminated with radioactive waste after being used for cooling the reactors and seeping inside nuclear facilities, is stored in drums inside atomic facilities, damaged by the earthquake and tsunami of 2011, where the space has run out.

After analyzing a series of possible solutions of great technical complexity, including evaporation and underground release methods, Japanese authorities and TEPCO opted for discharging all the accumulated liquid – following a decontaminating treatment – in the ocean close to the plant.

The water is treated with a processing system that eliminates most of the radioactive materials considered dangerous, with the exception of tritium, an isotope present in nature, although in a low concentration.

Japanese authorities insist that the discharged water will have radioactivity levels below the limit fixed for drinking water by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and therefore will not be a threat to human health or the environment.

However, the plan still faces opposition from local fishing communities, whose activities have barely been restored after the nuclear disaster of 2011.

The communities fear that the stigma surrounding the fish and seafood of the area will worsen following the release.

“We would like to thoroughly explain these measures to fishing communities and other relevant parties while listening to their concerns,” said Matsuno, according to news agency Kyodo.

TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa also took part in the said cabinet meeting, following which he said he thinks the situation is not understood well by the locals, and expressed a desire to “explain it to them taking into account their concerns’ in order to reach an understanding with as many people as possible.

The plan includes an allocation of 50 billion yen ($389 million) in aid for the fishing communities of the coasts next to the plant in order to compensate for the damages the discharge will cause to their reputation.

The area around the Fukushima Daiichi plant still suffers from the devastating consequences of the 2011 nuclear accident, including thousands of people who still remain displaced, and the continuous crisis of fishing, ranching and local agriculture. EFE


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