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Japan to Release Fukushima's Contaminated Water into the Ocean

Photo Credit: Petr Pavlicek / IAEA via flickr

Japan has announced that it will release 1.25 million tons of treated wastewater contaminated by the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the Pacific Ocean¹. The government said it is the best way to deal with tritium and trace amounts of other radionuclides in the water¹. The plant was severely damaged in a 2011 magnitude 9.0 quake and tsunami that left about 20,000 people in northeast Japan dead or missing¹.

The water will be treated and diluted so radiation levels are below those set for drinking water³. However, the local fishing industry has strongly opposed the move, as have China and South Korea³. Tokyo says work to release water used to cool nuclear fuel will begin in about two years³.

Environmental groups like Greenpeace have long expressed their opposition to releasing the water into the ocean³. The NGO said Japan's plans to release the water showed the government "once again failed the people of Fukushima"³. The country's fishing industry has also argued against it, worried that consumers will refuse to buy produce from the region³.

This decision has also prompted criticism from Japan's neighbors. Ahead of the decision, South Korea's foreign minister on Monday expressing "serious regret"³. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian also urged Japan to "act in a responsible manner"³.

The US appears to support Japan's decision, however, saying it seemed to have "adopted an approach in accordance with globally accepted nuclear safety standards"³.

Featured Photo Credit: Petr Pavlicek / IAEA
Description: (Taken from IAEA Imagebank, Flickr)
IAEA marine experts and Japanese scientists collect water samples in coastal waters near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Since the accident at the plant in March 2011, the Japanese authorities have been continually monitoring the levels of radioactivity in sea water and publishing the results. In an effort to verify the accuracy of these results and increase public confidence in what is being reported, the IAEA is undertaking joint sampling missions. The water samples were shared between the IAEA Environment Laboratories and Japanese laboratories. They will be analysed independently and the results will be compared to check the quality of the analyses and document the reliability of data.

(1) Japan plans to release Fukushima's wastewater into the ocean. https://www.science.org/content/article/japan-plans-release-fukushima-s-contaminated-water-ocean.

(2) Fukushima: Japan approves releasing wastewater into ocean. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-56728068.

(3) Fukushima nuclear disaster: Japan to release radioactive water into sea .... https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-64259043.

(4) Japan to start releasing treated Fukushima water into sea in 2 years. https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/12/asia/japan-fukushima-water-intl-hnk/index.html.

(5) Japan to release 1m tonnes of contaminated Fukushima water into the sea .... https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/16/japan-to-release-1m-tonnes-of-contaminated-fukushima-water-into-the-sea.

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