Disputed Fukushima evacuation may be delayed

13 January, 2023

Japan’s controversial plan to flush out millions of tonnes of stored water from the Fukushima nuclear disaster looks set to be delayed. The construction of the tunnel the water is to rush through is taking time – and the authorities also need to get the public on board.

The ambition is still to start releasing water this year, perhaps “around spring or summer,” according to an update from government representative Hirokazu Matsuno on Friday.

The plan has been approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The cooling water from the reactors has been stored since the 2011 accident that struck the nuclear power plant at the town of Okuma following massive earthquakes and the accompanying tsunami. But the amounts are growing, as rain falling on the affected area also becomes contaminated.

The water is filtered to remove almost all radioactivity and has been stored in tanks and basins that are now beginning to overflow.

Before the emissions can begin, one must “take preventive measures against bad reputations”, thus ensuring public support, according to Hirokazu Matsuno.

The local population, fishermen and environmental assessors have previously objected to the water being released. Among other things, it is feared that the market for fish will be hit hard regardless of whether the process is managed safely or not, if people opt out of Japanese fish out of sheer concern.

The plan has become geopolitical, since even neighboring countries such as China and South Korea have been very critical of the decision.

However, the IAEA reassures that the release of water meets international standards and “will not cause any damage to the environment”.

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