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Japan gov't set to decide to release Fukushima wastewater into sea despite opposition

Hiroshi Kishi, president of Japan's national federation of fisheries cooperatives, JF Zengyoren, answers questions from reporters following a meeting with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at the prime minister's office on April 7, 2021. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- The Japanese government is preparing to decide to release treated radioactive wastewater accumulating at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the sea, overriding opposition from the fishing industry.

    The decision to release the wastewater is expected to be made in the near future at a meeting of Cabinet members who are handling measures relating to the decommissioning of the plant and treatment of radioactive wastewater, presided over by Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato.

    On April 7, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga commented that he wanted to decide on the disposal method for the contaminated water accumulating at the plant "in a few days." His comment followed a meeting with Hiroshi Kishi, president of JF Zengyoren, a nationwide federation of Japanese fisheries cooperatives, at the prime minister's office.

    Kishi told reporters that Suga had asked for understanding on the release of the water, saying dealing with it was an unavoidable issue. In response, he said he informed Suga that there was "no change in the least" to the organization's stance opposing the release of the wastewater into the sea.

    Disposal of the wastewater, which is being stored temporarily in tanks, has long been a concern in work to decommission the nuclear plant, which was hit by three meltdowns in the wake of the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

    Kishi quoted the prime minister as saying, "We would like to decide on the government's policy based on a report of a government subcommittee of experts that releasing it into the sea is the most realistic option."

    While Kishi expressed firm opposition to the move, he made five requests to the government if it made that decision, namely that it carefully explain it to the public, clarify its measures to prevent damage from rumors, ensure safety, continue to support the fishing industry, and reconsider the method of storing the treated radioactive wastewater.

    Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshi Kajiyama told reporters the same day, "We will continue to explain the matter to those in the fishing industry," but added, "We want to reach a conclusion quickly."

    In February last year, the government's expert subcommittee compiled a report on the method of releasing the nuclear wastewater into the ocean. Based on this, the government had planned to hold a meeting of related Cabinet members in October 2020, but it was put off due to opposition from the local fishing industry. The government had accordingly been making arrangements with related groups for the meeting to go ahead.

    (Japanese original by Ei Okada, Business News Department, and Mayumi Nobuta, Science and Environment News Department)

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