Japan has commenced the discharge of over 1 million tonnes of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean from the devastated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, evoking sharp criticism from neighboring countries.
The move has sparked protests from China, South Korea, and local fishing communities. Tensions escalated as China swiftly imposed a blanket ban on all seafood imports from Japan, casting a shadow over diplomatic relations.
The operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), began the water release on Thursday, shortly after receiving government approval. Tepco assured the public that the process was initiated cautiously, with rigorous checks in place.
Despite concerns, no abnormalities were detected in the seawater pump or related facilities during the initial discharge.
Monitors from the United Nations atomic watchdog, who endorsed the plan, were present during the procedure. Tepco employees conducted water sampling for analysis as part of the process.
The endeavor, expected to span 30 to 40 years, has drawn sharp criticism from neighboring nations and local fishing communities. Fears persist that the tainted water release could adversely impact the seafood industry, deterring consumers from Fukushima-caught produce.
China’s response was swift and stern, denouncing the release as “extremely selfish and irresponsible.” Beijing emphasized the ocean as a shared global resource and criticized Japan for disregarding international interests.
In South Korea, protests led to the arrest of individuals who entered the Japanese embassy building in Seoul. The country’s stance has been cautious, accepting the science behind the discharge while maintaining concerns over food safety.
Tepco pledged a meticulous and gradual process for releasing the radioactive water. The initial discharge, amounting to 7,800 cubic meters, is set to last approximately 17 days.
The utility aims to ensure a controlled and measured release, as they navigate the challenge of wastewater disposal.
The task of disposing of accumulated wastewater at the Fukushima site has posed a persistent diplomatic challenge for Japan. The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), expressed support for the approach.
The wastewater’s contamination originated from its use to cool nuclear reactors that experienced meltdowns following the 2011 tsunami.
While technology onsite eliminates most harmful elements, it falls short in filtering out tritium, a relatively harmless radioactive isotope of hydrogen.
Concerns arise from the absence of comprehensive long-term data on the potential impact of tritium on human health and the marine ecosystem. Greenpeace highlighted the oversight of radiological and biological risks associated with the release.
Assurances were given regarding the initial discharge’s tritium concentration, which falls well below the World Health Organization’s drinking water limit. Japanese officials stand by the safety of the diluted water and its method of release through an undersea tunnel into the Pacific.
The IAEA’s safety review supported this stance, stating a minimal radiological effect on the environment and people.
However, skepticism remains high, particularly in China, which banned imports of food and agricultural products from several Japanese prefectures post the 2011 disaster.
As Japan embarks on this complex venture, global attention remains riveted on its repercussions and the broader environmental implications.
Source: The Guardian