Fukushima’s Treated Radioactive Water Set for Ocean Release

fukushima s treated radioactive water set for ocean release.jpg Science

In a significant yet contentious move, Japan is set to begin releasing treated and diluted radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean as early as Thursday. This decision marks a crucial initial step in the long journey of decommissioning the facility, a process expected to span decades following the catastrophic meltdown disaster that occurred 12 years ago. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who gave the final approval on Tuesday, emphasized that the release is vital for the progress of the plant’s decommissioning and the recovery of Fukushima prefecture from the disaster of March 11, 2011.

The aftermath of a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011 left the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s cooling systems in ruins, resulting in the meltdown of three of its reactors and the subsequent contamination of their cooling water. This water has since been collected, filtered and stored in approximately 1,000 tanks which occupy vast swathes of the plant’s grounds and are projected to reach their maximum capacity by early 2024. The imminent release of the treated wastewater has, however, sparked significant opposition from Japanese fishing organizations and international groups, particularly in South Korea and China, raising political and diplomatic concerns.

Japan to Begin Discharge of Treated Fukushima Wastewater into the Ocean

Japan has formally announced plans to commence the release of treated and diluted radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean. This decision, although controversial, is a necessary step in the long process of decommissioning the facility, which suffered a catastrophic meltdown 12 years ago.

A Critical Move for Decommissioning and Recovery

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida cleared the action on Tuesday in a cabinet meeting, instructing the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO), to be prepared for the release as early as Thursday, provided weather and sea conditions are favorable. The release of water is critical for the on-going decommissioning of the plant and the recovery of the Fukushima prefecture from the disaster that struck on March 11, 2011.

Kishida reassured that every measure has been taken to ensure safety, address reputational damage to the fisheries, and offer transparent and scientific explanations to gain understanding both domestically and abroad. He pledged that these efforts would continue throughout the water release and decommissioning process, which is expected to span several decades.

Addressing Opposition and Safety Concerns

The decision to release treated wastewater has been met with strong opposition from Japanese fishing organizations, who worry about further reputational damage to their seafood. The issue has also raised concerns in South Korea and China, transforming it into a political and diplomatic matter.

The government and TEPCO have reiterated that the water must be removed to make room for the plant’s decommissioning and to prevent accidental leaks from the storage tanks. Junichi Matsumoto, a TEPCO executive, stated last month that the water release marks “a milestone,” but is only an initial step in a challenging decommissioning process that could take decades.

Economic Support and Safety Assurance

In light of strong opposition from the fishing industry, the government has pledged 80 billion yen ($550 million) for sales promotion, other measures, and sustainable fishing operations. Although the head of the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives, Masanobu Sakamoto, maintains opposition to the release, he acknowledged that the fishing community has gained some confidence in the safety of the move due to government support.

The government and TEPCO have assured that the water will be treated and diluted to levels much safer than international standards, resulting in a negligible environmental and health impact. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supports this view, stating in its July report that the release, if carried out as planned, will have a negligible impact on the environment and human health.

Strained International Relations

Despite these reassurances, relations with neighboring countries, especially South Korea, have been strained. Hong Kong announced that it would suspend exports from Fukushima and nine other prefectures if Japan proceeded with the plan, and China has increased radiation testing on Japanese fisheries products, causing customs clearance delays.


The decision to release treated radioactive wastewater into the ocean is a critical, albeit controversial, step in the decommissioning process of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. While safety measures have been put in place, opposition from the fishing industry and international community remains a challenge. The long-term impact of this decision, both environmentally and diplomatically, remains to be seen.

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