In a move has sparked international outrage and concern, Japan has begun releasing treated radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean.
This decision has led to widespread protests, with activists in Seoul holding placards outside City Hall that read, ‘Mum, Dad, I don’t want to drink it! Japanese nuclear radioactive contaminated water.’
The Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) power plant, located in Fukushima, is responsible for this controversial action.
The treated water is being transported to an offshore discharge at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. This is where it’s released through an underwater outlet situated one kilometer away from the plant.
— Richard (@RichardToday11) August 24, 2023
This decision has not been taken lightly by neighboring countries.
China’s Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, The Global Times, warned this could open ‘Pandora’s box’ and trigger fears of a ‘real-life Godzilla’, referencing the iconic reptile monster from Japanese cinema.
Despite assurances from Japan and the International Atomic Energy Agency that the water discharge is safe and will have negligible impact on the environment and human health, the decision has been met with fierce opposition.
China, South Korea, and local fishing communities have expressed their concerns, fearing the potential destruction of their industry. In response, China has banned Japanese seafood and criticized Japan for being ‘extremely selfish and irresponsible’.
South Korea, while acknowledging no scientific problems with the water release, has urged Japan to maintain transparency throughout the process, which is expected to last decades.
Prime Minister Han Duck-soo emphasized the importance of Japan adhering to scientific standards and providing transparent information.
Fears of 'real-life Godzilla' as Japan dumps waste from Fukushima plant into sea https://t.co/1fD3aeO4SZ
— The Mirror (@DailyMirror) August 24, 2023
The water being released became contaminated after it was used to cool three nuclear reactors that melted down after the Fukushima Daiichi plant was struck by a powerful tsunami and earthquake in 2011.
To treat the water, Japan has been using the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) since 2013. While ALPS removes nearly all toxic elements, it cannot filter out tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen considered relatively harmless due to its weak radiation levels.
However, critics argue that the lack of long-term data makes it impossible to definitively state that tritium poses no threat to human health or the marine environment.
Environmental organization Greenpeace has voiced concerns that the radiological risks have not been fully assessed and that the biological impacts of tritium ‘have been ignored’.
As Japan continues with its plan, the world watches with bated breath. Is this a necessary step towards recovery from the 2011 disaster or a reckless gamble with our shared oceans and the life they sustain?