IWAKI (Japan): Seaside season has began throughout Japan, which implies seafood for vacation makers and good instances for enterprise homeowners. However in Fukushima, that will finish quickly.
Inside weeks, the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy plant is predicted to start out releasing handled radioactive wastewater into the ocean, a extremely contested plan nonetheless dealing with fierce protests in and out of doors Japan.
The residents fear that the water discharge 12 years after the nuclear catastrophe might deal one other setback to Fukushima’s picture and harm their companies and livelihoods.
“Without a healthy ocean, I cannot make a living.” said Yukinaga Suzuki, a 70-year-old innkeeper at Usuiso beach in Iwaki about 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the plant. And the government has yet to announce when the water release will begin.
It’s not yet clear whether, or how, damaging the release will be. But residents say they feel “shikataganai” — which means helpless.
Suzuki has requested officers to carry the plan not less than till the swimming season ends in mid-August.
“If you ask me what I think about the water release, I’m against it. But there is nothing I can do to stop it as the government has one-sidedly crafted the plan and will release it anyway,” he mentioned. “Releasing the water just as people are swimming at sea is totally out of line, even if there is no harm.”
The seaside, he mentioned, might be within the path of handled water touring south on the Oyashio present from off the coast of Fukushima Daiichi.
The federal government and the operator, Tokyo Electrical Energy Firm Holdings, or TEPCO, have struggled to handle the large quantity of contaminated water accumulating because the 2011 nuclear catastrophe, and introduced plans to launch it to the ocean throughout the summer season.
They are saying the plan is to deal with the water, dilute it with greater than 100 instances the seawater after which launch it into the Pacific Ocean via an undersea tunnel. Doing so, they mentioned, is safer than nationwide and worldwide requirements require.
Suzuki is amongst those that will not be totally satisfied by the federal government’s consciousness marketing campaign that critics say solely highlights security. “We don’t know if it’s safe yet,” Suzuki mentioned. “We just can’t tell until much later.”
The Usuiso space used to have greater than a dozen family-run inns earlier than the catastrophe. Now, Suzuki’s half-century previous Suzukame, which he inherited from his dad and mom 30 years in the past, is the one one nonetheless in enterprise after surviving the tsunami. He heads a security committee for the realm and operates its solely seaside home.
Suzuki says his inn friends will not point out the water difficulty in the event that they cancel their reservations and he would solely should guess. “I serve recent native fish to my friends, and the seaside home is for guests to relaxation and relax. The ocean is the supply of my livelihood.”
The March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s cooling systems, causing three reactors to melt and contaminating their cooling water, which has since leaked continuously. The water is collected, filtered and stored in some 1,000 tanks, which will reach their capacity in early 2024.
The government and TEPCO say the water must be removed to make room for the plant’s decommissioning, and to prevent accidental leaks from the tanks because much of the water is still contaminated and needs retreatment.
Katsumasa Okawa, who runs a seafood business in Iwaki, says those tanks containing contaminated water bother him more than the treated water release. He wants to have them removed as soon as possible, especially after seeing “immense” tanks occupying much of the plant complex during his visit few years ago.
An accidental leak would be “an ultimate strikeout … It will cause actual damage, not reputation,” Okawa says. “I think the treated water release is unavoidable.” It’s eerie, he adds, to have to live near the damaged plant for decades.
Fukushima’s badly hit fisheries community, tourism and the economy are still recovering. The government has allocated 80 billion yen ($573 million) to support still-feeble fisheries and seafood processing and combat potential reputation damage from the water release.
His wife evacuated to her parents’ home in Yokohama, near Tokyo with their four children, but Okawa stayed in Iwaki to work on reopening the store. In July, 2011, Okawa resumed sale of fresh fish — but none from Fukushima.
Local fishing was returning to normal operation in 2021 when the government announced the water release plan.
Fukushima’s local catch today is still about one-fifth of its pre-disaster levels due to a decline in the fishing population and smaller catch sizes.
Japanese fishing organizations strongly opposed Fukushima’s water release, as they worry about further damage to the reputation of their seafood as they struggle to recover. Groups in South Korea and China have also raised concerns, turning it a political and diplomatic issue. Hong Kong has vowed to ban the import of aquatic products from Fukushima and other Japanese prefectures if Tokyo discharges treated radioactive wastewater into the sea.
China plans to step up import restrictions and Hong Kong restaurants began switching menus to exclude Japanese seafood. Agricultural Minister Tetsuro Nomura acknowledged some fishery exports from Japan have been suspended at Chinese customs, and that Japan was urging Beijing to honor science.
“Our plan is scientific and safe, and it is most important to firmly convey that and gain understanding,” TEPCO official Tomohiko Mayuzumi told The Associated Press during its plant visit. Still, people have concerns and so a final decision on the timing of the release will be a “a political decision by the government,” he said.
Japan sought support from the International Atomic Energy Agency for transparency and credibility. IAEA’s final report, released this month and handed directly to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, concluded that the method meets international standards and its environmental and health impacts would be negligible. IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said radioactivity in the water would be almost undetectable and there is no cross-border impact.
Scientists generally agree that environmental impact from the treated water would be negligible, but some call for more attention on dozens of low-dose radionuclides that remain in the water, saying data on their long-term effect on the environment and marine life is insufficient.
Radioactivity of the treated water is so low that once it hits the ocean it will quickly disperse and become almost undetectable, which makes pre-release sampling of the water important for data analysis, said University of Tokyo environmental chemistry professor Katsumi Shozugawa.
He said the release can be safely carried out and trusted “only if TEPCO strictly follows the procedures as planned.” Diligent sampling of the water, transparency and broader cross-checks — not just limited to IAEA and two labs commissioned by TEPCO and the government — is key to gaining trust, Shozugawa said.
Japanese officials characterize the treated water as a tritium issue, but it also contains dozens of other radionuclides that leaked from the damaged fuel. Though they are filtered to legally releasable levels and their environmental impact deemed minimal, they still require close scrutiny, experts say.
TEPCO and government officials say tritium is the only radionuclide inseparable from water and is being diluted to contain only a fraction of the national discharge cap, while experts say heavy dilution is needed to also sufficiently lower concentration of other radionuclides.
“If you ask their impact on the environment, honestly, we can only say we don’t know,” Shozugawa, referring to dozens of radionuclides whose leakage is not anticipated at normal reactors, he says. “But it is true that the lower the concentration, the smaller the environmental impact,” and the plan is presumably safe, he said.
The treated water is a less challenging task at the plant compared to the deadly radioactive melted debris that remain in the reactors, or the continuous, tiny leaks of radioactivity to the outside.
Shozugawa, who has been regularly measuring radioactivity of groundwater samples, fish and plants near Fukushima Daiichi plant since the disaster, says his 12 years of sampling work shows small amounts of radioactivity from the Fukushima Daiichi has continuously leaked into groundwater and the port at the plant. He says its potential impact on the ecosystem also requires closer attention than the controlled release of the treated water.
TEPCO denies new leaks from the reactors and attributes high cesium in fish sometimes caught inside the port to sediment contamination from initial leaks and a rainwater drainage.
A local fisheries cooperative executive Takayuki Yanai told a recent online event that forcing the water release without public support only triggers reputational damage and hurts Fukushima fisheries. “We do not want extra burden to our restoration.”
“Public understanding is lacking because of distrust to the government and TEPCO,” he mentioned. “The sense of security solely comes from belief.”