Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has confirmed the operators of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant will begin releasing treated water from the controversial facility into the ocean as soon as Thursday.
“The release is expected on Thursday, as long as weather and sea conditions don’t cause any issues. We will take responsibility until the discharge of the treated water is completed, no matter how long it takes, for the next several decades,” Kishida said.
Since the March 2011 nuclear accident caused by the earthquake and devastating tsunami, a significant amount of contaminated water has accumulated at the Fukushima site.
The Japanese government says the release is required in order for the nuclear plant to be decommissioned. Reports say that while the water has been treated to remove most radioactive material, it still contains tritium which can increase the risk of cancer if consumed in extremely large quantities.
Despite the UN’s nuclear watchdog approving the plan, the pronouncement will undoubtedly illicit severe criticism from neighbouring countries China and South Korea as well as the local domestic fishing industry and anti-nuclear activists.
China already bans seafood imports from 10 Japanese prefectures including Fukushima and the country’s capital, Tokyo. While Seafood imports from other prefectures must pass radioactivity tests and have verification proof of originating from outside the 10 prohibited prefectures.
Following Kishada’s statement the Hong Kong government said it will now restrict Japanese seafood imports from 10 prefectures — Tokyo, Fukushima, Chiba, Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Miyagi, Niigata, Nagano and Saitama — beginning Thursday, August 24, the starting date of the water discharge.
Hong Kong is Japan’s second-largest market for fisheries exports, with mainland China being the largest.