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Neighboring countries worried about Japan’s plan to release radioactive water into the sea – NRK Urix – Foreign news and documentaries

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Wednesday marks the 78th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Radioactivity is still part of everyday life in the Land of the Rising Sun.

In 2011, a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit Japan. The result was the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, and more than 150,000 evacuees.

In the more than a dozen years that followed, reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant had to be cooled with water.

Radioactive material: Spent INF is pictured in the cooling pool at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in 2013.

Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/AP

This amount of water is equivalent to 500 Olympic swimming pools, and it was accumulated in 1,000 tanks at the power plant. At the beginning of 2024, the facility will reach its maximum storage capacity.

Now the Japanese authorities will release this partially radioactive water into the sea, over a period of 30 to 40 years.

The water will be released one kilometer from the coast through an underwater tube, which many experts say is safe.

In this aerial photo, we can see the 1,000 tanks where cooling water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant is stored.

Storage Problem: In this aerial photo, we can see 1,000 tanks where cooling water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant is stored. A few months pass until all the cisterns are full.

Photo: KYODO/Reuters

According to the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun Emissions will begin as early as the end of August. It provokes strong reactions in the region.

– This has turned into a formidable challenge for Japan’s foreign policy, says Marc Lanthien, a Japan expert and assistant professor at the University of Tromso.

However, there has not been much discussion on this topic in the Japanese public sphere, says the researcher:

– Because of Japan’s history with nuclear weapons, this is a very emotional topic. Therefore, the government tries to minimize the effects.

Biden, Kishida, and Yun meet in Hiroshima.

He should be notified: The Asahi Shimbun writes that the layoffs will likely begin after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida notified his American and South Korean counterparts, Joe Biden and Yoon Sok Yul. The three heads of state will meet on August 18 in Washington, DC

Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP

Both Japanese and international authorities say there is nothing to worry about.

– the emissions will have a minimal radioactive effect on people and the environment, He says Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

– We will continue to try to explain to the Japanese people and the international community why this plan is safe, says Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Professor Katsumi Kazugawa shows a container with a water sample from the safety zone around the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.  Both tritium and other radioactive elements have contaminated groundwater in the area.

Researcher: Professor Katsumi Kazugawa showing a container with a water sample from the safety zone around the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Both tritium and other radioactive elements have contaminated groundwater in the area.

Photo: Shuji Kajiyama/AP

A slightly radioactive plan, but “probably safe”

The cooling water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant has been thoroughly cleaned by the operating company TEPCO before it is now released.

University of Tokyo chemistry professor Katsumi Shozugawa told the Associated Press that it would be nearly impossible for the release to be noticed.

– But in order to be trusted to carry out the cleaning work, TEPCO must follow up with regular water tests and a high degree of transparency, Shozugawa nuances.

It was the tsunami that caused the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.  The waves are said to have been over 40 meters high in some places, and moved at a speed of 700 kilometers per hour.

Tsunami: It was the tsunami that caused the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The waves are said to have been over 40 meters high in some places, and moved at a speed of 700 kilometers per hour.

Photo: Mainichi Shimbun/Reuters

In the aftermath of the Fukushima accident, TEPCO was criticized for misleading the public about safety measures at the plant.

– There was a lot of criticism at that time, and it’s true. The emergency response has been described as slow. There was a lot of bureaucracy. After that, it wasn’t reported how much radiation was actually involved, Lanthien says.

UiT Associate Professor Marc Lanteigne

– Emotional: UiT associate professor and Japanese expert, Marc Lanteigne, says radiation and nuclear protection are very emotional topics in Japan and the region.

Photo: Christopher Olsen

It’s important to monitor the density of some chemicals, such as tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that is difficult to remove from water, Shuzugawa says.

– If you ask what the impact is on the environment, we can honestly say we don’t know. But it’s true that the lower the density, the less impact on the environment, says Shozugawa, who calls the emission plan “probably safe.”

Lee Young-min stands in front of salt and seaweed with her two children at her home in Seongnam, South Korea

Stocked: Lee Young-min stands in front of salt and seaweed with her two children at home in Seongnam, South Korea

Photo: Daewoong Kim/Reuters

protests in neighboring countries

When it became clear that Japan would release radioactive water into the sea, there was some panic in neighboring countries.

In South Korea, many people have started stocking up on salt. Salt is often added or naturally rich in iodine, an element that helps protect the body from radiation.

– I recently bought five kilograms of salt, Lee Young-min told Reuters.

The 38-year-old mother from the suburbs of Seoul is worried about her family’s health.

Lee Young-min cooks seaweed soup in the kitchen at home in Seongnam, South Korea.

Everyday problem: Lee Young-min cooks fish soup in the kitchen at home in Seongnam, South Korea. Now you want to avoid Japanese goods.

Photo: Daewoong Kim/Reuters

– As a mother of two, I have to do something. I have to feed them in a safe way, she tells me as she cooks fish soup.

China, which has a strained relationship with Japan, is highly critical of the decision to release the waters.

– The Chinese media really took this opportunity to describe Japan as an irresponsible environmental actor and a bad regional partner, says Lantien.

He also noted that relations between China and Japan worsened after Japan participated in the NATO summit in Vilnius.

Seafood from 10 of Japan’s 47 regions is now banned in China. Seafood from other Japanese regions should be tested for radioactivity.

Customers choose a tray of sashimi at an imported Japanese produce store in Hong Kong

Senior customer: There are packages of raw fish from Japan in front of a shop selling Japanese goods in the Chinese capital, Beijing. China buys about 23 percent of all Japanese seafood exports.

Photo: Louise Delmotte/AP

– Although the International Atomic Energy Agency said that the discharge of waste water from the nuclear power plant meets international standards, it cannot be proven to be the best solution, the Chinese Atomic Energy Agency wrote in statement.

Pacific countries such as Vanuatu, Fiji and Samoa are also concerned.

These countries have their own history of nuclear weapons explosions. This is a very sensitive topic in the Pacific Ocean, says Lantien.

The region has already felt the dangerous effects of radioactive radiation after countries like France and the United States tested nuclear weapons over and in the Pacific Ocean.

Fishermen outside the town of Togoro in Fiji.

Exposed: Fishermen off Togoro, Fiji.

Photo: Saeed Khan/AFP

According to the 2.3 million people who depend on fishing for both food and income in the Pacific Islands World Bank.

Pacific States Forum (PIF) wrote in a statement In June, they said they were “deeply concerned” and that “more time and an abundance of caution” was needed.

A man prays on a dam outside Fukushima.

Possible solution: A man prays at a checkpoint outside Fukushima. Marine scientist Robert Richmond believes that cooling water from the nuclear power plant could be used to mix cement and expand this barrier.

Photo: Takuto Kaneko/AP

Several alternative solutions

One of those pointing to other possibilities for cooling water disposal is Robert Richmond, director of the Kewalo Marine Laboratory at the University of Hawaii.

– During a visit to the Fukushima power plant in February 2023, it was clear that a large amount of cement was needed to reinforce the dams that prevent groundwater from flowing into the sea, he writes. Richmond.

The marine scientist believes that cooling water could be used to mix this cement, if it is indeed safe.

Henry Bona with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi.

Feud: Henry Bona with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi. Bona believes other solutions should be discussed. Hayashi believes the discharge is safe.

Photo: Eugene Hoshiko/AP

Secretary General of the Public Investment Fund, Henry Bona from the Cook Islands, pointing In addition to the possibilities of using certain types of microorganisms to remove radioactive elements, the so-called bioremediation.

Bona also believes that the possibility of storing the cooling water in another safe location should be considered.

Not noticeable in Norway

Øyvind Gjølme Selnæs is Section Manager for Preparedness Analytics at the Directorate for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (DSA).

He says the emissions will not be noticeable in Norway.

– Water is cleaned of most of the radioactivity and thus diluted. When it’s launched it will also be diluted, so it won’t be noticeable at all in Norway.

Øyvind Gjølme Selnæs is Section Manager for Preparedness Analytics at the Directorate for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (DSA).

Don’t worry: Øyvind Gjølme Selnæs of Norway’s radiation protection watchdog, DSA, says there’s no reason to worry about emissions here in Norway.

Image: DSA

DSA continues to support the IAEA’s assessment that Japan’s plan is safe.

However, there were a number of lessons to be learned from the Fukushima accident, says Gjølme Selnæs:

There was a lot to learn for the entire international community after this incident. Great business started with safety checks of facilities around the world. This also applies to Norwegian installations.


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