After 12 years since the strongest earthquake to ever hit Japan, the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant has now begun releasing treated radioactive waste water into the Pacific Ocean as part of its 30+ year decommission strategy after a plan was approved by Japan’s government.
The plan has sparked controversy, because the water being released contains Tritium, a radioactive isotope of Hydrogen that cant be removed by the facility’s water filtration technology.
The IAEA, UN’s atomic regulator says the water will have “negligible” radiological impacts on the environment and its people, but does that mean it’s safe?
China has since announced that it would suspend all seafood imports from Japan, to “protect the health of Chinese consumers”. The country’s foreign ministry condemned Japan’s move as “extremely selfish and irresponsible”. Beijing’s foreign ministry had this to say in a statement,
“The ocean is the common property of all humanity, and forcibly starting the discharge of Fukushima’s nuclear wastewater into the ocean is an extremely selfish and irresponsible act that ignores international public interests,”Beijing’s Foreign Ministry
It warned of a potential “man-made secondary disaster to the local people and the whole world” following the original 2011 Fukushima disaster.
“By dumping the water into the ocean, Japan is spreading the risks to the rest of the world and passing an open wound onto the future generations of humanity.”Beijing’s Foreign Ministry
Meanwhile In South Korea, protests have erupted after its own government’s endorsement of the Japanese plan. According to an officer at the Jongno police station in the South Korean capital, 16 people have since been arrested on charges of trespassing after protesters were accused of breaking into the Japanese embassy.
Liberal critics accused the South Korean government led by President Yook Suk Yeol of putting their own peoples health at risk in order to improve bilateral ties with Japan. Yoon maintains that improved ties with Japan are necessary due to shared challenges like North Korea’s advancing Nuclear arsenal and the intensifying rivalry between the United States and China.
The Yoon administration has since attempted to ease the concerns of its people by having its lawmakers publicly drink seawater from a fish tank at a local market in Seoul to emphasize food safety, but has been unsuccessful with seafood consumption in the area on the decline.
Surveys in South Korea showed that more than 80 percent of respondents opposed the Japanese discharge plan, while more than 60 percent said they will not eat seafood after the release begins.
“I totally oppose the Japanese plan. The radioactive wastewater is truly a bad thing, my feelings toward Japan have worsened because of the wastewater release.”Lee Jae-kyung – Seoul resident.
In a seafood market in the southeastern port city of Busan, fish seller Kim Hae-cheol said his revenues have been cut in half since a few months ago and worries that his business would suffer even further after water discharge.
“I haven’t had any customers today. In past years, I sold fish worth $300-$380 by this time on a normal day. Others in this market have had few customers today as well.”Kim Hae-Cheol – Local Fish Seller
It’s too early to measure the negative impacts of the water discharge from the Fukushima Power Plant on our planet, but it is safe to say that people across the globe have the right to be concerned as an uncertain future of this decision remains.