The government on Tuesday outlined a plan for releasing treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea, including compensation standards for local industry and the compilation of a safety assessment report.
Japan said in April it would discharge more than 1 million metric tons of contaminated water in stages after treatment and dilution, starting around spring 2023. The announcement provoked concern from local fishermen and objections from neighboring China and South Korea.
Earlier this month, the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., outlined detailed plans for the disposal, including building an undersea tunnel to release the water.
Under the government program, Japan aims to set standards for compensation for damage caused by what it described as harmful rumors about local industries such as fishing, tourism and agriculture, while reinforcing monitoring capability and transparency to avoid reputational damage.
Under the plan, the industry ministry and the Reconstruction Agency will work together from next month to start publicizing in Japan and abroad the safety of the water, and conduct a consumer opinion survey on the issue through next March.
The government will also create a fund to support the temporary purchase and storage of freezable seafood in case producers are hit by reputational damage. For the fund, the government has secured ¥30 billion under its fiscal 2021 supplementary budget.
Japan also expects the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to compile an interim safety assessment next year, based on its review over the safety of the treated water, competence of local analytical laboratories and regulatory frameworks, it said.
In an effort to improve transparency to gain the trust of the international community, Japan asked the IAEA in April to conduct a review to assess and advise on the handling of the water.
A decade after a massive earthquake and tsunami ravaged the country’s northeastern coast, disabling the plant and causing the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, nearly 1.3 million metric tons of contaminated water has accumulated at the site.
The water, enough to fill about 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools, is stored in huge tanks at an annual cost of about ¥100 billion ($870 million), and space is running out.
Japan has argued the release is necessary to press ahead with the complex decommissioning of the plant. It says similarly filtered water is routinely released from nuclear plants around the world.
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