Contaminated wastewater at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant will be released into the ocean “in around two years,” the Japanese government has announced, despite calls from China and South Korea urging against the move.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced the move in Tokyo, on Tuesday morning local time. He had previously called the release “unavoidable” given the amount of accumulated water over the past decade.
The Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in the Fukushima prefecture suffered a meltdown after being struck by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and a 15-meter tsunami in March 2011. It was the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl accident in the USSR.
The wastewater contaminated with tritium – the radioactive isotope of hydrogen – that has since accumulated inside the complex will be diluted and released into the ocean, the Japanese national broadcaster NHK reported on Tuesday, citing government officials.
Earlier this week, China warned Japan that “the international community is watching” and called on Tokyo to “fulfil [its] international responsibilities” when it came to the environment.
A spokesman for the South Korean Foreign Ministry said on Monday that releasing the water would “directly and indirectly affect the safety of the people and the neighboring environment” and that it would be “difficult to accept” if Japan makes the decision without “sufficient consultation” with its neighbors.
The accumulated tritiated water is a byproduct of the authorities attempting to cool the melted nuclear fuel of the plant’s reactor core over the past 10 years. A 2013 Japanese government study concluded that there is no “no practical separation technology on an industrial scale” to treat the wastewater, and recommended “controlled environmental release” as the solution.
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