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The government on Sunday held a briefing session to explain to local industries and municipalities about its decision to release treated radioactive water from the disaster-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant into the sea.

The briefing session was the first of its kind to be held since the government made the decision on April 13.

Participants in the session, held in the city of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, included officials from agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism industry groups and municipalities along the Pacific coast of the prefecture.

Tetsu Nozaki, head of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations, voiced opposition to the water release plan, citing difficulty in winning the understanding of related officials, while many other participants expressed concerns about possible reputational damage to products from Fukushima Prefecture.

Tomoaki Kobayakawa, president of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 plant, said the company will “be sure to keep the promise” made in 2015 with the federation and the government that it will not implement any measure without the understanding of related officials.

“While we’re still facing lingering damage from negative rumors related to the nuclear accident, the government decided on the water release as if to pour salt on the wound,” a senior official of a prefectural federation of fish markets said, seeking the thorough implementation of measures against such rumors.

Takashi Kanno, chairman of JA Fukushima Chuou-kai, a group of agricultural cooperatives, touched on the fact that some neighboring countries have yet to lift import restrictions on farm products from Fukushima and said, “I wonder if the Japanese government can explain about the safety of (Fukushima’s products) to Japanese people even though it has been unable to give such explanations to other countries.”

A representative of a hotel industry group said, “What we will be suffering as a result of the ocean release is real damage, not reputational damage.” The representative asked the government to create a system that would allow business operators to receive related compensation swiftly.

Some municipality officials cast doubt on the credibility of Tepco after a series of safety-related scandals involving the company came to light.

Iwaki Mayor Toshio Shimizu said, “It’s obvious that fishery operators will be hit by reputational damage unless the public’s understanding of the ocean release plan is enhanced.”

After the briefing session, State Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Kiyoshi Ejima said in a news conference that the government will continue to make utmost efforts to give thorough explanations so as to win people’s understanding.

In about two years, the government plans to start gradually releasing into the ocean the treated water generated at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, after diluting the levels of tritium in it to about one-40th of the state-set standard. More than 1,000 tanks built at the plant’s premises to hold the treated water are expected to reach full capacity by autumn 2022.

The government will instruct Tepco to provide compensation to those affected by reputational damage without limiting the range of subject industries and regions.

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