28th September 2023 – (Tokyo) Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) announced on Monday, 28th September, that it will begin discharging the second round of contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Thursday, 5th October.
The estimated amount of water to be discharged is approximately 7,800 metric tons.
According to TEPCO’s discharge plan, a total of 31,200 metric tons of diluted nuclear wastewater will be released in four stages this year, with a total tritium content of 50 trillion becquerels. The first batch of 7,800 metric tons of nuclear wastewater was discharged in 17 days, starting on 24th August and completed on 11th September. The Ministry of Fisheries has been publishing daily test results since 26th August, and as of 25th September, they have tested a total of 64 fish from 7 species. The tritium concentration in all samples has remained below the detection limit, resulting in a consistent “not detected” outcome.
The release during the first round in August 2023 involved more than 1 million tonnes of tainted water being discharged into the Pacific Ocean from the site of the devastated Fukushima plant. This move led to an immediate blanket ban on all seafood imports from Japan by China and has ignited anger among fishing communities in close proximity.
Tepco assured that the release, which commenced in August 2023, has not revealed any abnormalities in the seawater pump or the surrounding facilities. Live video footage exhibited engineers monitoring computer screens, with an official announcing the opening of valves near the seawater transport pumps after a countdown.
The United Nations atomic watchdog, which has endorsed the plan, was scheduled to have monitors present during the procedure. Tepco workers also intended to collect water samples on Thursday for further analysis.
However, the discharge, expected to last between 30 to 40 years, has triggered resentment in neighbouring countries and raised concerns among fishermen who fear that it will devastate their industry. Consumers are likely to steer clear of seafood caught in and around Fukushima due to contamination fears, which could have severe economic consequences for the fishing community.
Since the release of nuclear-contaminated water commenced from the damaged Fukushima power plant on 24th August, the international community has been closely watching and expressing opposition. CGTN conducted interviews on the streets of Tokyo and Chiba, where Japanese citizens voiced concerns about the impact of the radioactive water on the ocean and the environment.
In a worrying development, the owner of the Fukushima plant detected record-high levels of radioactive tritium in the nearby sea area. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) reported that the amount of tritium reached 10 becquerel (Bq) per litre, the highest in the past five years. While TEPCO claimed that this level is the minimum detectable amount and attributed it to the water release, China’s initial analysis revealed the presence of over 60 radioactive elements, some of which take centuries to decay and cannot be filtered with current technology.
These radioactive substances pose a long-term threat as they will disperse through ocean currents and spread globally over the decades-long duration of the Fukushima water release, permanently altering the ocean ecosystem. Concerningly, there is no independent monitoring mechanism in place for TEPCO’s water filtration system, raising the need for indirect measures to ensure its effectiveness.
Japan’s decision to release the contaminated water has faced opposition both domestically and internationally. In China’s Hong Kong, interest in Japanese food has significantly declined, leading to a substantial drop in business for Japanese restaurants since the announcement of the water release. Similarly, South Korea has experienced a decline in fish prices, with the government planning to allocate funds to measure the radioactivity of seawater and seafood.
A local environmental group in South Korea conducted a poll revealing that over 70 per cent of respondents oppose the release of nuclear-contaminated water. Approximately 78 per cent of the 1,000 respondents aged 18 and above expressed dissatisfaction with their government’s support for the release and advocated for halting the import of Japanese seafood, mirroring China’s approach.