TOKYO (AP) — The release of a third batch of treated radioactive wastewater from Japan’s damaged Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean ended safely as planned, its operator said Monday, as the country’s seafood producers continue to suffer from a Chinese import ban imposed after the discharges began.
Significant quantities of radioactive liquid waste have built up at the nuclear facility since it was harmed by a powerful earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The facility has recently started releasing treated and diluted wastewater into the sea, with the third batch of 7,800 tons being discharged on Monday. This process is estimated to continue for many years.
Fishing groups and nearby countries, such as China, have strongly objected to the discharges. China has even implemented a ban on all Japanese seafood imports, causing significant harm to Japanese producers and exporters of scallops and other seafood.
The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, said the third release, like the two previous ones, went smoothly and marine samples tested by it and the government showed that levels of all selected radionuclides were far lower than international safety standards.
During a meeting on Friday at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida requested Chinese President Xi Jinping to lift the seafood ban. However, the outcome of the meeting was a non-specific agreement to seek solutions through constructive discussions and dialogue.
According to Kishida, the two parties will arrange a gathering of knowledgeable professionals to converse about the release. However, there is currently no set schedule for when the ban may be lifted.
The Japanese government has created a fund to assist in discovering new markets for seafood from Japan. Efforts led by both the central and local governments have been made to promote the consumption of fish among Japanese consumers and show support for seafood producers in Fukushima.
TEPCO has sent out application forms to 580 potential compensation recipients in the fisheries industry for any harm to their products’ reputation due to the discharge of wastewater.
The wastewater is treated to remove as much radioactivity as possible to meet legally releasable standards and then greatly diluted with seawater before it is discharged. TEPCO and the government say the process is safe, but some scientists say the continuing release of water containing radionuclides from damaged reactors is unprecedented and should be monitored closely.
On Monday, the third batch of wastewater was fully released, adding 23,400 tons to the total. TEPCO has announced that there will be a fourth release by the end of March 2024. However, this release will only empty around 10 of the 1,000 storage tanks at the Fukushima plant due to ongoing production of wastewater. Officials predict that the rate of discharges will increase in the future. Currently, the tanks hold over 1.3 million tons of wastewater, most of which will need to be treated to meet safety regulations before being released.
The government and TEPCO state that releasing the water into the ocean is necessary as the tanks must be relocated from the plant site for decommissioning purposes.