Fishermen oppose release of contaminated water from Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan

The company which operates the plant, Tokyo Electric Power, has collected over 1.23 million tons of contaminated water since the collapse of the nuclear plant in 2011

October 17, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Nuclear plant Japan

Local fishermen and environmental groups have opposed the Japanese government’s decision to release millions of tons of contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea. According to the decision announced on October 15, Thursday, the water which is kept in over a thousand containers will be gradually released into the sea to create new storage space.

The company which operates the plant, Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), has claimed to have collected over 1.23 million tons of contaminated water since the collapse of the nuclear plant in 2011. As per TEPCO, if this collected water is not released, the site will run out of water storage by 2022.

Local Fishermen and environmental groups have opposed the move and called it catastrophic for both the local seafood industry and the marine environment.

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been under the process of being decommissioned since 2011, when an earthquake and tsunami struck the plant, partially damaging it and leading to the release of radioactive contaminated material. At least one person has been reported dead due to exposure to the leak from the plant and several others were injured.

According to media reports, the release of the contaminated water stored in 1044 tanks at the site will be gradual and take decades to complete. The authorities have assured that the water will only be released after decontamination and in a safe way. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, it is possible to dilute the contaminated water with sea water. 

However, local fishermen are apprehensive about the possible impact on their livelihoods. They argue that people had stopped buying their products due to the 2011 accident, and that they are still fighting the rumors of contaminated seafood. Fresh release of contaminated water can cause another backlash, The Guardian reported.  

Hiroshi Kisshi, president of the federation of fisheries cooperatives JF Zengyoren, told Nikkei Asia, “we will suffer immense harm, and all the efforts the fishery industry has made thus far would come to nothing.”

According to Nikkei Asia, the fishery industry in Fukushima prefecture has not yet recovered from the 2011 accident. In 2019, it only produced equivalent to 14% of the production before 2011.  

Environmental groups have long opposed such moves because of the uncertainty of the process and lack of studies on its impact on the marine environment, particularly the impact of remaining tritium in the treated water.