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Fresh pressure on Japan to reverse Fukushima discharge plan

By WANG XU in Tokyo | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-02-17 10:13

Gustavo Caruso (front), director and coordinator of the IAEA's nuclear safety and security department, meets with officials from Tokyo Electric Power Company in Tokyo on Monday.  [JAPAN'S MINISTRY OF HEALTH, LABOUR AND WELFARE]

Japan's proposal to release contaminated water from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the ocean was condemned again as a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived in the country to review the plan.

The Northern Mariana Islands, a US territory that is located some 2,500 kilometers southeast of Japan, said Japan's plan, officially announced last year, is unacceptable.

"The expectation is that the discharge will not happen until 2023. There is time to overturn this decision," said Sheila Babauta, a member of the Northern Mariana Islands' House of Representatives. In December, its government adopted a joint resolution opposing any nation's decision to dispose of nuclear waste in the Pacific Ocean.

"The effort that went into the creation of the joint resolution exposed research and reports from Greenpeace East Asia highlighting alternatives for the storage of Japan's nuclear waste, including the only acceptable option, long-term storage and processing using the best technology available," Babauta added.

Under Japan's proposal, the Japanese government will gradually dump the still-contaminated water in spring 2023. The water has been used to cool highly radioactive damaged reactor cores as the massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011 destroyed the Fukushima plant's cooling systems, triggering the meltdown of three reactors and the release of large amounts of radiation.

The plan has provoked concerns since its first day by local fishers, coastal communities, neighboring countries and Pacific Island countries. Foreign ministries of China and South Korea had vocally expressed opposition and the Pacific Islands Forum, the intergovernmental organization for the region, said that "Japan has not taken sufficient steps to address the potential harm to the Pacific".

Haruo Ono, a 69-year-old fisherman in Fukushima, told China Daily in December that the discharge will completely ruin the reputation of fishing industry of Fukushima.

"The (Japanese) government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (the plant's operator) have been hiding information since the 2011 accident," Ono said, adding that he and his fellow fishermen "can't trust them for a second".

On Monday, a team from the IAEA including experts from Argentina, China, France, South Korea, Russia, the United States, Vietnam, and the United Kingdom arrived in Tokyo to review Japan's plan. They will hold a news conference on Friday after their five-day mission of visiting the site and observing the handling of the contaminated water.

Gustavo Caruso, director-coordinator of the IAEA's nuclear safety and security department that heads the team, said the review would be carried out in an "objective, credible and science-based manner and help send a message of transparency and confidence to the people in Japan and beyond".

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday: "Japan should face up to the international community's concerns, revoke the erroneous decision on ocean discharge, and stop advancing relevant preparatory work. Unless consensus is reached with stakeholders including neighboring countries and relevant international organizations through full consultation, the Japanese side mustn't wantonly start the ocean discharge."

Agencies contributed to this story.

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