Japan aims to release treated water from Fukushima this week

An aerial photo of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima Prefecture on April 7, 2021. FILE PHOTO

The Japanese government has entered the final stage of implementing a plan to release treated and diluted water from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the ocean. The government is aiming to start discharging the water as early as Thursday.

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio says he has seen some progress in the understanding of the plan by Japan’s fishing industry.

He made the comment after meeting with Sakamoto Masanobu, the head of the National Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations, and other representatives on Monday.

At the meeting, Kishida called for their understanding of the plan. He said as the state will take the helm of the planned release, it will be performed safely.

The prime minister also explained that necessary measures will continue to be taken by the government so fishers can continue to safely ply their trade.

He said the government would take full responsibility for releasing the water, even if the task spans several decades.

Sakamoto said he remains opposed to the release of treated water, arguing that the plan has not won public understanding.

He said Kishida’s remarks about the government’s long-term commitment, even if it spans several decades, carry weight.

But he expressed concerns about harmful rumours, saying that scientific safety, and social perception of safety, are two different things.

After the meeting, Kishida told reporters that he met the head of the National Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations in person and was informed that people in the industry now have a better understanding of the plan.

He said the most important thing is to continue to have communications with the industry. He said the government will set up follow-up meetings so that it can support them every step of the way.

The government plans to convene a meeting of relevant ministers Tuesday morning to decide on the date of the release of the treated water.

Rain and groundwater mixes with water used to cool molten fuel at the plant. The accumulated water is treated to remove most radioactive substances but still contains tritium. The Japanese government plans to dilute the treated water to reduce tritium levels to about one-seventh of the World Health Organisation’s guidelines for drinking water quality before releasing it into the sea.