Asia - Pacific, Environment

Mired in controversy, Japan to release nuclear waste on Thursday

‘Japan’s push for the ocean discharge is unjustified, unreasonable, and unnecessary,’ Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman says

Riyaz ul Khaliq  | 22.08.2023 - Update : 22.08.2023
Mired in controversy, Japan to release nuclear waste on Thursday


Despite domestic and international opposition, Japan said on Tuesday that it will proceed with its controversial decision to release treated nuclear waste on Thursday.

The decision was taken at a ministerial meeting chaired by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Tokyo-based Kyodo News reported.

Tokyo's decision to release nuclear waste from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant has drawn harsh criticism at home and abroad, particularly from neighboring China and South Korea.

“If the Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water is truly safe, Japan wouldn’t have to dump it into the sea—and certainly shouldn’t if it’s not,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin wrote on X. “Japan’s push for the ocean discharge is unjustified, unreasonable and unnecessary.”

He emphasized the importance of the ocean for humanity. “China urges Japan to cancel the plan, communicate with its neighbors with sincerity and goodwill, dispose of the water responsibly and agree to international oversight.”

"China will take all steps necessary to protect the marine environment, ensure food safety and safeguard people’s health," he added.

Japanese fishermen have also voiced criticism of the move, which may affect aquatic life.

Kishida vowed to “dispose of the treated water and decommission the wrecked plant in a safe manner.”

“The government will take full responsibility, even if it takes decades,” said Kishida, whose rating has slid in recent weeks.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO) has directed its employees to "swiftly begin preparations for the water discharge.”

Amid strong opposition from China, Japan has found support from the US, while the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded in a report released in July that Tokyo’s release of the nuclear waste would have “negligible radiological impact on people and the environment.”

However, the nuclear watchdog clarified that it neither recommends nor endorses Japan’s decision to release nuclear waste.

The Kishida government’s decision to proceed with the nuclear waste release also comes amid reports that TEPCO found a leak in a hose used to transfer treated water.

The authorities later detected “higher-than-usual levels” of radioactive material in rainwater around a storage tank earlier this month.

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