Tokyo: The Japanese government on Friday said a controversial plan to release radioactive wastewater from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean will start in the spring or summer.
The schedule of the plan was confirmed during a meeting of cabinet ministers at the Prime Minister’s office earlier in the day, reports xinhua news agency.
During the meeting, financial support for fishing communities which will suffer reputational damage when the radioactive water is dumped into seas where they fish, was endorsed, as stipulated by a revised policy on the disposal of the treated water.
Japan’s fishing industry has vociferously made clear its ardent opposition to the plan, as it will almost certainly cause further damage to the industry’s reputation in the already maligned region.
The government believes a new 50-billion-yen ($388 million) fund under the revised policy will somehow help the fishing communities, whose stock following the release of the toxic water in their fishing areas, will almost certainly be considered tainted, regardless of to what degree the toxic water is treated.
Under the plan, the water, which contains hard-to-remove radioactive tritium as a result of being used to cool down melted nuclear fuel at the stricken plant, will be discharged through an underwater tunnel into the Pacific Ocean after being treated.
The plant had its key cooling functions knocked out after being battered by a massive earthquake-triggered tsunami in 2011, resulting in the worst global nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.
The tainted water being stored in tanks at the plant is expected to soon reach capacity and the lengthy process of then dumping the radioactive water into the ocean is projected to take several decades.
Previously, the government had considered a number of alternatives to simply releasing the radioactive water into the Pacific.
These included discharging the water into the soil, using electrolysis to hydrogenate the tritium, as well as the possibility of encasing the contaminated water and burying it deep underground.
Those attending Friday’s meeting of cabinet ministers said that efforts will continue to gain the understanding of local residents, business operators and the broader public, as opposition to the planned dumping has been strong.
Besides staunch opposition to the plan from within Japan, some of the country’s closest neighbours and the wider international community have also voiced their concerns about and opposition to the plan to dump the radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean.