Japan has decided to release the contaminated water stored at tanks in the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea. The decision has raised concerns not only from Japan’s neighboring countries, such as South Korea and China, but also from within Japan.
At a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the Japanese government approved a plan to release the contaminated water from the wrecked Fukushima plant into the sea after diluting it until radiation levels fall below legal limits. This is the first time that Japan made a decision on how to treat the contaminated water since a powerful earthquake struck Japan on March 11, 2011. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) plans to start releasing the water into the sea in about two years after constructing facilities and setting concrete plans for the disposal.
“Disposing of the treated water is an unavoidable issue in decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi plant,” said Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga during the Cabinet meeting. “The ocean release was the ‘most realistic’ option, provided the government thoroughly prepares for the damage.” The Japanese government is calling the contaminated water “treated water” since the water has been purified once.
Even the filtration process, which is called the advanced liquid processing system (Alps), cannot remove tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, in the water. Japan plans to lower the tritium concentration levels in the contaminated water to one-fortieth of its own regulatory limits and to one-seventh of the World Health Organization drinking water standards before dumping it into the sea. However, the decision followed fierce protests from fishermen and civic groups at home. Hiroshi Kishi, the president of the nationwide federation of Japanese fisheries cooperatives, issued a protest statement on Tuesday, saying the decision is “extremely regrettable and cannot be tolerated.” He added the decision tramples on the opinions of fishermen nationwide.
Koo Yoon-cheol, head of South Korea’s Office for Government Policy Coordination, convened an emergency meeting of vice-ministers on Tuesday and condemned Japan’s decision. “The government expresses strong regret over the Japanese government’s decision to release contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean,” said Koo. “The government will take all necessary measures while putting the safety of our people first.” Second Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-moon summoned Japanese Ambassador Koichi Aiboshi on Tuesday to protest over Japan’s decision.