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Dumping of Fukushima radioactive water into ocean ‘unavoidable’, Japanese PM says, as country’s fisheries reject plan

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga met with the head of the National Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations, Hiroshi Kishi, on Wednesday, discussing the options for disposing of the radioactive waters – described by the government as “treated” – that have accumulated in storage tanks around the nuclear power plant.

The meeting was seemingly not fruitful, with the fisheries union boss saying afterwards that fisheries groups remain opposed to the dumping of tainted water into the ocean, which is set to happen over the course of many years. While the plan has not yet been signed into policy, it has been widely considered to be the main option on the table for dealing with the buildup.

“The disposal of … treated water is unavoidable and experts have recommended that the release into the sea is the most realistic method that can be implemented. Based on these inputs, I would like to decide the government’s policy,” Kishi quoted Suga as saying after the meeting.Trade Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama, however, said that the government can no longer postpone its decision on the Fukushima waters.

“What to do with the ALPS treated water is a task that the government can no longer put off without setting a policy,” Kajiyama said. ALPS refers to the ‘advanced liquid processing system’ used to ‘treat’ the tainted waters before storing.

The Fukushima nuclear power plant suffered a catastrophic meltdown back in 2011, following a major 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent crippling tsunami. In the years since, the plant has accumulated a large stash of contaminated liquid, which includes cooling water, as well as groundwater and rain seeping into the plant daily.

Currently, some 1.2 million tons of radioactive water rest in storage tanks around the premises. The plant’s operators are expected to run out of water storage space by 2022.

The plans to release the tainted waters into the ocean have been repeatedly criticized by environmentalist groups, which have argued it may cause an unprecedented ecological disaster. Last October, Greenpeace accused Tokyo of bending the truth by describing the water as “treated,” claiming the liquid contains “dangerous levels of carbon-14,” which have the “potential to damage human DNA.”

Late in March, Japan sought help from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), asking the UN nuclear watchdog to conduct a safety review of its plans. Back then, Kajiyama said it had been “increasingly important to dispel concerns and reputational worries over the safety of the water which have been raised domestically as well as from our neighboring countries.”

The IAEA, in turn, signaled it was ready to back the government’s plans to deal with the Fukushima water, expressing confidence that Tokyo had enough determination and technological capacity to pull off the disposal properly.

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