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Fishermen voice distrust, worry over gov't decision to release Fukushima plant water

This aerial photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter shows wastewater tanks at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on Feb. 13, 2021. (Mainichi/Koichiro Tezuka)

FUKUSHIMA -- Fishermen and workers in the marine product processing industry have expressed anger and concern following the Japanese government's decision to release treated radioactive wastewater from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the sea.

    Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshi Kajiyama met with Tetsu Nozaki, president of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations, and sought understanding for the national government's decision. However, Nozaki expressed his objections as a representative of fishermen in Fukushima.

    Takeshi Takano, 70, a fisherman at Ukedo fishing port in the Fukushima prefecture town of Namie, and a member of the Namie Municipal Assembly, said, "I get the impression that ultimately, the decision to release the wastewater into the sea was forcibly pushed through without opportunities for us to engage in two-way discussions with the national government and (plant operator) TEPCO."

    He continued, "If more specific information had been provided before the decision was finalized, we could have held constructive discussions together, such as proposing a set of measures from our side. Now we know that the information sessions held by the government thus far had been one-way occasions to release our pent-up frustration. Have our voices really reached them?"

    Takano is a third-generation fisherman. Prior to the 2011 earthquake, he went out fishing with his son almost every day. He recalls having been able to catch "flatfish, flounder, skipjack tuna, bluefin tuna, sea bass and any other fish, really." Takano's house and boat were washed away in the tsunami, and he temporarily evacuated out of the prefecture due to the nuclear incident. Although he also thought of quitting his job as a fisherman, data on fishing grounds and caught fish which had accumulated over a great number of decades were found in his boat after it was washed ashore, and this boosted his spirits.

    Trial fishing operations held along the Fukushima prefectural coast, in limited sections of the sea and for a limited number of days, ended in March, and Takano and his fellow fishermen were in the midst of making progress in recovering sales channels and the volume of their catches. Considering this, Takano said, "I'm worried that the release of treated radioactive wastewater into the sea might hasten the decline in the number of successors in the prefecture's fisheries."

    He also expressed his distrust of TEPCO, the main agent of the nuclear wastewater release. The company has reported a series of problems, including leaving a broken seismometer at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, and severe deficiencies in anti-terrorism measures at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Niigata Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast. Takano questioned if it was "really OK to entrust the release of radioactive wastewater to TEPCO," and said, "I still have no trust for them even after 10 years."

    Meanwhile, following the government's decision, Ichiro Takano, 73, a fisherman and representative of the Ukedo district for Japan Fisheries Cooperative (JF) Soma Futaba, commented, "I cannot say anything until I hear the details, as the national government and TEPCO will likely provide an explanation to us fishermen in the near future." He also indicated concern for reputational damage which may be caused by the release of treated water, and said that in such a scenario, middlemen will also suffer greatly.

    "Right now, market prices have been impacted by the coronavirus, and reputational damage caused by the radioactive wastewater may be difficult to prove even if it arises," said the fisherman, and expressed worry over how compensation would be offered.

    Citizens' group members are seen protesting the national government's decision to release treated radioactive wastewater at the Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea, in front of the Fukushima Prefectural Government building on April 13, 2021. (Mainichi/Mina Isogai)

    Following the government's decision to release treated radioactive wastewater that has accumulated at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the sea, multiple parties, including citizens' group "No more pollution to our sea! Citizens' council," held a protest in front of the Fukushima Prefectural Government building on April 13.

    Some 30 people there raised banners reading "No to wastewater release into the sea," and "The prime minister should listen to residents' voices!" and criticized the national government's decision.

    Tomoko Sato, 60, who attended the demonstration from the city of Minamisoma, said, "Before deciding on releasing radioactive wastewater into the sea, I'd like the national government to think about the issue as they address prefectural residents face on. I want them to think ahead to what will become of our children's future."

    (Japanese original by Shuji Ozaki, Minamisoma Local Bureau, Naoki Watanabe, Video Group and Mina Isogai, Fukushima Bureau)

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