Fukushima residents rally against plan to discharge nuclear-contaminated water into sea

People rally to protest against the Japanese government’s decision to discharge contaminated radioactive wastewater in Fukushima Prefecture into the sea, in Tokyo, Japan, on April 13, 2021.

Protests have been held in Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture against the government’s controversial plan to release contaminated water from the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.

Dozens of local residents gatheredin front of the Fukushima prefectural government office building on Tuesday, calling for the cancellation of the move, while also demanding protection for the ocean, as they waved banners with slogans written in several languages in a bid to bring international attention to their concerns.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, located on Japan’s northeast coast, was crippled after going into meltdown following an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Around 1.25 million tons of water, used to cool the reactors after the meltdown, are currently stored in tanks in and around the plant.

Local polls have shown that more than 70 percent of non-governmental organizations in Fukushima object to the plan of releasing the radioactive water into the ocean. Many people worry the plan will cause great harm to their health.

“If nuclear contaminated water is discharged into the sea, people may be affected by eating fish or other sea food. This may bring sustained harm to people’s health. Since the release plan will take a long time to complete, I am worried the harm will increase day by day,” said a local resident.

“I want to protect the health and future of younger generations, so I oppose dumping the contaminated water into the ocean,” said another local resident.

The protesters also voiced concern that Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the nuclear power plant, had failed to fully disclose information about the Fukushima nuclear disaster or verify the data about the nuclear contaminated water.

see also Legal action on Fukushima nuclear disaster’s impact on health

“Although the release plan says the radioactive water will be diluted before being discharged into the sea, the total amount of nuclear elements in the water will not change at all. So I think it’s not right to dump the wastewater into the ocean and spread contamination,” said a local resident.

Tuesday’s protest took place as a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was slated to conduct safety reviews at the plant.

Scientists trace the path of radioactive cesium in the ecosystem of Fukushima

The 15-member team arrived in Japan on Monday to review the government’s plan to release the treated radioactive water into the ocean from the  destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant — a review that Tokyo hopes will instill confidence in the plan, which is opposed by neighboring countries.

The task force, headed by Gustavo Caruso, director of the IAEA’s Office of Safety and Security Coordination, is due to stay in Japan through Friday.

Japan and the IAEA have agreed to compile an interim report on the review later this year.

Last April, the then-Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said TEPCO would be allowed to release nuclear contaminated water from Fukushima into the Pacific Ocean starting in 2023, leading to a massive outcry from both local residents and the international community.

Local fishing communities expressed opposition as well, saying that the water discharge would undermine years of work to restore confidence in seafood from the region.

The radioactive water, which increases in quantity by about 140 tons a day, is now being stored in more than 1,000 tanks, and space at the site is expected to run out around next autumn.

To meet international standards before disposal, the nuclear wastewater, however, needs to be filtered to remove harmful isotopes. The process, however, cannot remove tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that experts say will be harmful to human health in large doses.


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