China, South Korea and Taiwan expressed opposition Tuesday to Japan’s decision to release into the sea water that has been treated but remains contaminated with radioactive tritium, which has accumulated at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Beijing called the move “extremely irresponsible,” with China’s Foreign Ministry saying in a statement that Japan had made the decision “unilaterally” and that releasing the water would “hurt the interest of the people in neighboring countries.”
Tokyo “should not arbitrarily start to release (the water) until it reaches an agreement with related countries and the international community,” the ministry added, suggesting China could take measures against Japan’s move.
Koo Yun-cheol, South Korea’s minister for government policy coordination, said Seoul “firmly opposes” the Japanese plan, while Taiwan’s Atomic Energy Council said legislators and others on the self-ruled island have opposed it.
Koo made the remark at the outset of an emergency meeting of related ministries held to discuss responses to the Japanese decision. He later told reporters that Seoul finds the decision highly regrettable and said that it was unacceptable.
“The decision … was a unilateral move made without enough discussion or understanding from us, South Korea, which is the closest country geographically,” Koo said at a press briefing, adding that South Koreans including lawmakers and civic groups were also strongly opposed to it.
The strong reactions from some of Japan’s closest neighbors followed a decision by Tokyo earlier in the day to discharge the water into the Pacific, starting in around two years’ time, despite worries among local fishermen and countries nearby.
The U.S. government, on the other hand, showed understanding of the Japanese plan, saying shortly after Tokyo’s announcement that its decision-making process had been “transparent.”
“We thank Japan for its transparent efforts in its decision to dispose of the treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi site,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted, adding that the United States looked forward to Japan’s continued coordination with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
State Department spokesman Ned Price also emphasized in a press release that Japan had worked closely with the U.N. nuclear watchdog to manage the aftermath of the accident triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami that hit the nation’s northeast 10 years ago, including over cleanup efforts.
Noting that the United States was aware the Japanese government had examined several options related to the management of the processed water, Price said Japan had been “transparent about its decision” and “appears to have adopted an approach in accordance with globally accepted nuclear safety standards.”
The Fukushima No. 1 plant suffered core meltdowns in the wake of a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Massive amounts of water contaminated with radioactive substances have been generated in the process of cooling melted reactor fuel at the site.
The water is treated at a processing facility on the premises to remove most contaminants but the process cannot remove tritium, a radioactive byproduct of nuclear reactors. The treated water, stored in tanks, has been building up, with storage capacity expected to run out as early as fall next year.
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