Fishing fury: One million tonnes of Fukushima's radioactive waste to be dumped in Pacific

Fishing fury: One million tonnes of Fukushima's radioactive waste to be dumped in Pacific

08:03 - RADIOACTIVE wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is set to be released into the Pacific Ocean, sparking fears for the safety of the fishing industry.

The operator of the defunct plant confirmed on Wednesday plans to construct an undersea tunnel extending 0.6 miles (one kilometre) from the site on Honshu Island's east coast. The announcement follows a decision by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Japan to review the release of more than one million tonnes of Fukushima's radioactive wastewater. In April this year, the Japanese government sparked a wave of protests when announcing plans to release Fukushima's waste within two years.

The power plant, which suffered a nuclear meltdown after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011, is being operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Holdings.

The company aims to start releasing the contaminated water used to cool the plant's reactors by the spring of 2023.

The plans involve the construction of an underground pipeline inside of a concrete tunnel, which TEPCO believes will not interfere with local fishing.

Spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said the tunnel will be drilled through the bedrock in the seabed near Reactor No.5.

Of the plant's six nuclear reactors, No.5 is the only one to have survived the Tohoku cataclysm.

The plant was flooded by the tsunami, leading to three nuclear meltdowns and a chemical explosion that damaged three reactors.

The Fukushima disaster was the most severe nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

On the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), Fukushima was ranked alongside Chernobyl at Level 7.

In the aftermath of the Tohoku tsunami, contaminated wastewater has been stored in nearly 1,000 tanks at the site.

TEPCO expects the tanks to reach their capacity by the end of next year.

The water will be filtered and diluted before being pumped out into the Pacific, under the watchful eye of regulators.

Hiroshi Kajiyama, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, said earlier this week: "The IAEA has been cooperating extensively with Japan on our efforts to deal with the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

"The Agency will play a vital role in reviewing and monitoring the safe implementation of our plan to discharge the treated water into the sea."

But the plans have proven extremely controversial in Japan, as well as in Korea and China.

Fishermen, in particular, are concerned about the effect the release of contaminated water will have on their livelihood.

In May this year, Korean fishermen penned a letter to the Japanese government, expressing their concerns about the plans.

The letter read: "Our industry is on course to suffer annihilating damage, just when people's concerns about a possible radioactive contamination of marine products."

Fishermen are worried public perceptions of seafood could drastically shift as a result of a perceived threat to health.

Scientists have, however, given Japan the green light to go ahead with the plans.

According to a report published in Nature, the discharge of water carries a minimal risk to health, provided the release is carried out according to plan.

TEPCO aims to dilute the water with fresh seawater before release while sticking to an annual cap on radioactive waste.

The discharge is expected to last about 30 years.

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