Aug 22, 2023 - World

Japan to start releasing treated radioactive water into the ocean this week

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida prepares to speak to reporters in Tokyo on Aug. 22. Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images

Japan will begin releasing more than 1 million metric tons of treated radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean starting Thursday.

Why it matters: Though the plan has been deemed safe by the International Atomic Energy Agency, it has faced pushback from fishing groups and neighboring countries.

State of play: The Japanese government originally announced the plan to release the treated water into the Pacific Ocean two years ago, and it's considered a key step to decommissioning the Fukushima plant, per Reuters.

  • Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced at a press conference Tuesday that the treated water would start to be released on Aug. 24 if weather and sea conditions allow.
  • Kishida said he had personally met with fishermen on Monday.

Zoom out: In 2011, a massive earthquake unleashed a tsunami that wrecked the Fukushima plant and caused one of history's worst nuclear disasters.

  • More than a decade later, the plan to release the radioactive water used to cool the damaged reactors remains controversial.
  • The South Korean government said in a statement Tuesday that though there are "no scientific or technical problems with the plan" it didn't necessarily agree with the decision, Reuters reported.
  • China has also opposed the plan, calling on Japan to "dispose of the nuclear-contaminated water in a responsible manner and accept rigorous international oversight."

What they're saying: Tokyo Electric Power Company, which is responsible for the plant's decommissioning, said in a statement Tuesday that it would "quickly make preparations to commence discharge with the utmost vigilance."

  • The IAEA said that it will maintain a presence at the plant to "monitor and assess these activities on site to ensure that they continue to be consistent with the safety standards."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with a statement from the IAEA.

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