Japan initiates new round of controversial nuclear-contaminated wastewater discharge into Pacific

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19th April 2024 – (Tokyo) Japan has commenced its fifth session of releasing nuclear-contaminated wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the Pacific Ocean, a move that continues to draw significant domestic and international criticism. This latest discharge, the first in the fiscal year 2024, was confirmed by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plant’s operator.

Approximately 7,800 tons of wastewater containing tritium, a radioactive isotope, are scheduled for release until 7th May. Although TEPCO reports that the levels of all other radioactive substances in the water are below national safety standards, the presence of tritium—which cannot be fully removed—has been a focal point of concern.

The release process involves diluting the tritium-laden water with seawater, a method reported by the Asahi Shimbun. TEPCO has committed to daily monitoring of the tritium concentration in the surrounding marine environment throughout the discharge period.

This ongoing strategy has faced staunch opposition from the local fishing community and residents, culminating in a lawsuit filed against the Japanese government and TEPCO. The legal challenge, which has grown to include over 360 plaintiffs, underscores the community’s distress over potential ecological and economic impacts.

Critics, including Hideki Taki of the National Trade Union Council, argue that the discharges breach prior agreements with local stakeholders and pose unanswered questions about food safety and environmental health. The dissatisfaction is compounded by the slow pace of decommissioning the Fukushima plant, with no clear timeline for the removal of nuclear waste and other contaminated materials.

As TEPCO pushes forward with plans to release a total of 54,600 tons of treated water this fiscal year, the debate over the safety and ethics of discharging tritium remains heated. The international community continues to watch closely as Japan navigates the complex aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.