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Japanese citizens oppose FY2024 nuclear wastewater discharge plan


 , Updated 11:35, 28-Jan-2024
Protesters hold banners which read
Protesters hold banners which read "Don't dump contaminated water into sea" outside Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) headquarters building in Tokyo, Japan, May 16, 2023. /CFP

Protesters hold banners which read "Don't dump contaminated water into sea" outside Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) headquarters building in Tokyo, Japan, May 16, 2023. /CFP

The operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), has announced a plan to release around 54,600 tonnes of nuclear-contaminated waste water from the facility into the ocean in fiscal 2024, despite concerns and opposition.

The volume, about 1.75 times that of the 31,200 tonnes scheduled for fiscal 2023, is expected to be discharged into the Pacific Ocean in seven rounds, starting from April 1, 2024, to March 31, 2025, according to the plan announced on Thursday.

Chiyo Oda, a citizen of Iwaki City in Fukushima Prefecture, told Xinhua via email that the recent powerful magnitude-7.6 earthquake hitting the Noto Peninsula has raised concerns about the safety of nearby nuclear power plants.

"As someone who lived through the Fukushima nuclear disaster, I believe that people should no longer have to go through the experience of avoiding radiation hazards. Discharging nuclear-contaminated water into the sea is an intentional spread of radioactive substances by humans and is not allowed," Oda said.

TEPCO said it aims to finalize the plan by March 31, the end of fiscal 2023. 

Meanwhile, TEPCO has decided to postpone, for the third time, removing melted nuclear fuel debris, one of the biggest challenges in decommissioning the plant.

TEPCO had planned to remove the debris, a mixture of molten nuclear fuel and parts of the plant's structure, from the No. 2 reactor on a test basis by the end of fiscal 2023, and now it aims to start the work by October this year, the company said.

Toshihiro Inoue from a Japanese citizen group against atomic and hydrogen bombs told Xinhua that since TEPCO cannot guarantee the start of the work in October, the removal of debris is far behind schedule and a clear plan is no longer in sight.

TEPCO initially said that the decommissioning of the reactor would be completed by 2051, and that the radioactive wastewater would continue to be discharged for 30 years before completion, Inoue noted, adding that an end to the ocean discharge now looks increasingly uncertain and the negative impact on the environment is worrying.

The nuclear wastewater discharge started in August 2023. In fiscal 2023, TEPCO is set to release a total of about 31,200 tonnes of radioactive wastewater in four batches, with the fourth and final round for the year scheduled late next month.

TEPCO claimed that the discharge was essential to decommissioning the plant but later it said that the decommissioning work was not progressing smoothly, which is cheating, Oda said.

TEPCO knew clearly that the decommissioning would not be completed in 30 years, but they started the ocean discharge anyway. I think their claim that there is no other way but to discharge the water into the sea has become untenable, Oda added.

Hit by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and an ensuing tsunami on March 11, 2011, the Fukushima nuclear plant suffered core meltdowns that released radiation, resulting in a level-7 nuclear accident, the highest on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale.

The plant has been generating a massive amount of water tainted with radioactive substances from cooling down the nuclear fuel in the reactor buildings, which are now being stored in tanks at the nuclear plant.

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency
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