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Japan's move sparks furor

By JIANG XUEQING in Tokyo | China Daily | Updated: 2023-08-28 07:00

Editor's note: The release of nuclear-contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the Pacific Ocean began last week despite strong international opposition. China Daily looks at the reactions from the local community, its neighbors and the Pacific Island countries, and examines the far-reaching impact of the discharge.

A staff member of Mothers' Radiation Lab Fukushima tests a sample of seawater taken near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, damaged by a March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, in Iwaki, northeastern Japan, on Friday. EUGENE HOSHIKO/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Citizens' groups demand halt to nuclear water release, slamming govt decision

Japanese protesters are continuing to urge the government to halt the release of nuclear-contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the ocean, which began on Thursday.

Citizens' groups held a protest rally near the Prime Minister's Office in Tokyo again on Friday, strongly opposing the government's go-ahead for the Tokyo Electric Power Company to begin releasing contaminated water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean.

Protesters said the government had chosen the least expensive and easiest method of disposing of Fukushima's radioactive water, ignoring strong opposition from Fukushima residents and the Japanese public. This also disregards international legal obligations, they said.

Mizuho Fukushima, leader of the Social Democratic Party and a member of the House of Councilors, the upper house of the National Diet, said at the rally that the Japanese government's decision allows the discharge of radioactive substances into natural environments and such a move is an "atrocity".

A lot of political manipulation is behind the move, she said.

Similar protests were staged by civic groups in other Japanese cities. Among their appeals was one saying, "Don't spread any more poison in the sea."

Hirofumi Kokubun, secretary-general of the Iwate Prefectural Association for a Peaceful, Democratic and Progressive Japan, emphasized that the release of contaminated water is a unilateral breach of promises made to fishers and the public, and constitutes a reckless act that undermines democracy.

Kyoko Yoshida, vice-chairman of the Japanese Communist Party's Iwate Prefectural Committee, said policymakers should not be allowed to ignore the lessons of the nuclear accident and to give priority to the profits of the Tokyo Electric Power Company over the safety of citizens.

Citing concerns over food safety and pollution of the ocean, China suspended the imports of all aquatic products originating from Japan from Thursday.

Mami Moriya, a teacher of children with intellectual disabilities, said: "When it comes to potential dangers like this, there's no such thing as being too cautious. So if people from other countries say they don't want to import Japanese seafood products, that's understandable. It's only natural for other countries to give priority to the health and safety of their own people."

Tokyo Electric Power Company has been unable to accurately determine the amount of radioactive substances to be discharged. Beginning the ocean discharge is thus certain to damage the natural environment, disrupt the livelihoods of fishers and threaten food safety for the public, Moriya said.

She urged the government and the power company to pass on accurate data related to nuclear-contaminated water to other countries because, she said, the ocean discharge affects the future of all life on Earth.

Masashi Tani, secretary-general of the Japan Congress Against A-and H-Bombs (Gensuikin), said: "After the government and the company accurately disclose the information, judging whether the ocean discharge is safe or not is up to us. It's not for the business promotion side to say whether it's safe or not."

Voicing worries

Kinzaburo Shiga, a third-generation fisherman in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, said he has been in the fishing industry for more than 50 years and is worried about whether the younger generation will be able to continue fishing. Shiga said he is preparing for the lifting of a ban from Sept 1 on bottom trawling, a method of fishing that involves dragging heavy nets across the seafloor, and feels anxious about this season's fishing, which will continue until the end of June, the newspaper Fukushima Minpo reported.

The decision to proceed with the ocean discharge will have a substantial negative impact on Japanese products, primarily in fisheries, agriculture and forestry, thus dealing an economic blow to Japan. Simultaneously, the release of nuclear-contaminated water may also affect inbound tourism to the country, said Zhang Yulai, vice-president of the Japan Institute of Nankai University in Tianjin.

"Japan should be prepared to face various challenges and may even bear a heavy cost. Undoubtedly, the dumping of contaminated water will also severely affect its international image," Zhang said.

Li Ruoyu, a visiting research fellow with the Institute of Japanese and Korean Studies at Sichuan Normal University in Chengdu, said: "As a researcher of Japanese issues, what concerns me the most is the risk of the Japanese government's categorization of all questioning of the ocean discharge as politically unfriendly toward Japan. While such an approach may cater to domestic nationalist sentiments in Japan, it hinders the resolution of the issue and fails to effectively mitigate potential contamination risks."

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