Japan determined to release Fukushima wastewater despite backlash
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Monday that the disposal of radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant cannot be postponed amid plans to rebuild the plant, despite the looming backlash from both home and abroad, broadcaster NHK reported.
People from all over Japan's Fukushima Prefecture held a rally near the port of Onahama in Iwaki City on Sunday afternoon to protest against the government's proposal of discharging nuclear sewage into the sea.
The Japanese government said it will hold a ministerial meeting to formally decide on the plan of disposing the radioactive wastewater from the power plant into the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday.
People from all over Fukushima gathered in the street and held up slogans against the discharge of tritium-containing wastewater into the ocean, saying that the ocean, fish and Earth are crying.
"Protect the sea of their hometown, the fishery as well as children," one slogan said.
The rally was initiated by local environmental organizations in Fukushima. Members of these organizations and representatives from all walks of life in Fukushima Prefecture made speeches successively, expressing their opposition to the plan and questioning the decision-making process.
"I hope the government can fully explore all sorts of resolutions to process the wastewater, and listen to public opinions," a local in Fukushima told CCTV. "I feel awfully sad about the government's neglect of our opinions. I would like to trust their decision. But they've made it difficult for me to trust them."
Forty-one of the prefecture's 59 municipal councils disagreed with the plan to release the contaminated water into the sea. Of those, 25 strongly opposed it, and 16 asked the government to respond cautiously.
According to an NHK survey conducted last year, there is a very clear anti-nuclear sentiment in Japan.
The survey said 51 percent of the public are against the waste being released and only 18 percent are in favor.
The Japanese government has repeatedly tried to announce the disposal of the contaminated water but has been deterred by opposition from citizens, including fishermen and environmentalists.
The government had initially hoped to make a decision on the discharge of the treated water in October last year but later paused the process for more discussions due to staunch concerns.
As of December 2020, environmental groups in Fukushima had collected 450,000 signatures from Japanese citizens opposing the disposal of contaminated water into the ocean.
"Some experts suggest nuclear wastewater be poured into the ocean. There is no support for this among fishery workers and the Japanese public. I strongly oppose this idea as well," Hiroshi Kishi, chairman of the Japan Fisheries Cooperative, told CGTN on Saturday.
Since the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011, Tokyo Electric Power Company, a plant operator, has stored 1.25 million tons of irradiated cooling water in tanks.
South Korea is one of the 15 countries and regions that have the import ban of agricultural and marine products from Japan because of the Fukushima accident. Seoul has been making strong comments about it since 2019.
The Ministry of Fisheries said releasing radioactive water into the ocean is supposed to be an international decision. And once the releasing process starts, it will be a continuing process, as Fukushima holds 101,000 tons of wastewater.
The United Nations' nuclear agency has shown support for Japan's plan to dump the wastewater into the sea.
Releasing nuclear wastewater into the ocean is a standard practice globally, said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It said that Japan had asked the agency to assess its plan.
China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson said at a regular press conference that the radioactive leakage from Japan's Fukushima nuclear accident has already had a profound impact on the marine environment, food safety and human health of neighboring countries.
He urged the Japanese government to “conduct an in-depth assessment of the potential impact of the treatment for wastewater containing tritium at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and voluntarily disclose information in a strictly accurate, open and transparent manner.”