Science & Environment

Japan Accuses Russia Of Politicizing Fukushima Water Situation

When Japan started releasing handled radioactive water from Fukushima final month, Russia and China have been fast to criticize the transfer and recommend it was unsafe. Now, in an interview with HuffPost, a Japanese authorities official accused the 2 international locations of spreading disinformation.

“It’s political,” mentioned the official, who requested anonymity to talk candidly in regards to the diplomatic course of. “Misinformation — disinformation — is causing reputational damage and adversely affecting the lives of people in Fukushima.”

In August, the state-owned Tokyo Electric Power Company started releasing closely diluted and filtered water laced with small quantities of tritium, a short-lived and comparatively innocent radioactive isotope of hydrogen, into the Pacific Ocean. The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog mentioned this was safer than storing the water for a very long time in tanks, the place it might leak or spill in an earthquake, and pledged to take care of an unbiased monitoring system all through the yearslong course of.

Despite routinely discharging tritium in far bigger volumes from its energetic fleet of nuclear reactors, Beijing lambasted Tokyo for treating the ocean as its “sewer” and banned imports of Japanese seafood, slicing off the fishing trade’s biggests market.

Russia, which additionally releases tritium repeatedly from its personal reactors, stepped up its criticism of Japan on Wednesday.

“We don’t see any transparency or openness from Tokyo,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova advised reporters at a press convention, according to Reuters. “We are not the only country which is expressing such concerns – China has too, and the Japanese themselves have.”

The Chinese and Russian governments despatched Japan three separate questionnaires — in June and November of 2022, and in July of 2023 — formally inquiring about Tokyo’s plans to launch the handled water into the Pacific. Each time, the Japanese authorities responded with detailed solutions in regards to the course of for filtering the water and security protocols for its launch. The United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, posted the responses on its web site.

A substitute shopper helps an internet buyer purchase salt at a grocery store in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, on Aug. 24. As Japan started to discharge contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy plant into the ocean, some Hangzhou residents purchased a considerable amount of salt in a questionable bid to forestall radiation illness.

NurPhoto through Getty Images

But the follow-up questionnaires appeared to disregard previous replies.

“They contained many ambiguous questions and statements,” the Japanese official mentioned. “The series of joint questionnaires from China and Russia made us wonder if previous answers provided by Japan were excluded.”

Nuclear vitality has lengthy been related to the horrors of atomic weapons. Misconceptions in regards to the risks related to radiation from reactors are seared into the favored consciousness with photos of mushroom clouds and hazmat fits. As a end result, whereas many around the globe stay comparatively comfortably with the rising threats of illness brought on by publicity to microplastics or the tiny particles of fossil gasoline air pollution, they panic over radiation of any form, whatever the health dangers.

Surveys by the consultancy Bisconti Research, which has polled Americans’ opinions on nuclear vitality for many years, routinely show a “perception gap” through which respondents assume the broader public is extra against atomic vitality than they’re.

Nearly 53% of Japanese polled this month by the information company Jiji Press supported releasing handled water from Fukushima into the ocean, whereas simply 16% opposed the transfer and about 31% have been undecided, as The Japan Times reported. That represents a major shift from July, when one other Jiji Press ballot confirmed about 39% supported the discharge plans and 28% opposed.

The panic has solely worsened in China, the place rumors unfold throughout the nation’s tightly regulated social media networks that water from Fukushima threatened to trigger most cancers and different illnesses. The claims sparked a run on iodized salt, which many Chinese consumers believed would defend towards radiation illness. While desk salt wouldn’t present sufficient iodine to guard a person’s thyroid gland from taking within the significantly poisonous radioisotopes launched in an accident just like the Soviet Union’s 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe ― and will itself harm the body if overeaten ― the push to replenish got here after Chinese officers banned imports of Japanese seafood.

Protesters — wearing masks of political leaders from Japan, the U.S., and South Korea — are pictured during a rally denouncing a summit between the countries, in Seoul, South Korea, on May 19. They oppose the nations' military alliance and the release of treated radioactive water from a Fukushima nuclear power plant. The text reads, "Imported marine products from Fukushima."
Protesters — carrying masks of political leaders from Japan, the U.S., and South Korea — are pictured throughout a rally denouncing a summit between the international locations, in Seoul, South Korea, on May 19. They oppose the nations’ navy alliance and the discharge of handled radioactive water from a Fukushima nuclear energy plant. The textual content reads, “Imported marine products from Fukushima.”

Losing entry to their largest export market stirred outrage amongst Japanese fishers, lots of whom blamed the federal government in Tokyo for finishing up the discharges within the first place.

“Local people are afraid of the reputational damage generated by erroneous and false rumors, which are not based on scientific facts and have affected their livelihoods,” the Japanese official mentioned.

The United States, which works intently with Japan on nuclear vitality and supported Tokyo’s choice to launch the water, despatched Ambassador Rahm Emanuel to eat sushi on camera in Fukushima prefecture to reveal the seafood’s security.

The mounting pressure from China and Russia comes as Japan appears to revive its nuclear vitality trade, after halting most of its reactors greater than a decade in the past as a consequence of a nuclear meltdown in Fukushima.

On Friday, Japan restarted a reactor within the Fukui prefecture on the nation’s west coast that had been mothballed since 2011. Last week, Japan’s Chubu Electric Power mentioned it was shopping for a stake within the U.S. reactor firm NuScale Power, in an indication that the 2 international locations’ long-entwined nuclear industries would proceed to work intently collectively.

It’s a part of an effort by the U.S., Japan and different nuclear vitality customers to generate extra electrical energy from fission, as they search to chop again on planet-heating fossil fuels and stabilize more and more blackout-prone grids.

But any progress within the nuclear trade may very well be hampered by rising tensions inside the IAEA. As they jockey for affect, each China and the U.S. are far behind on paying dues to the group, Bloomberg reported. As a end result, the IAEA has a $235 million funding hole in its roughly $694 million finances for this 12 months, in response to paperwork that the monetary newswire obtained. Work on the company might reportedly “grind to a halt” in a month due to the unpaid dues.

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