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Fisheries opposed to Fukushima water discharge, trade group tells PM

Hiroshi Kishi, head of the national fisheries cooperatives, speaks to reporters after a meeting with industry minister Koichi Hagiuda in Tokyo on April 5, 2022.

April 5, 2022

TOKYO (Kyodo) — A major fisheries group in Japan told Prime Minister Fumio Kishida Tuesday it remains firmly opposed to the planned discharge of treated water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea due to concern over negative impact on the industry.

“I told (Kishida) our position to oppose (the discharge) remains exactly the same,” Hiroshi Kishi, head of the national fisheries cooperatives, told reporters after visiting the prime minister’s office.

It was the first meeting between the head of the national fisheries cooperatives and Japan’s prime minister since April last year when the decision was made to release treated low-level radioactive water into the sea from around the spring of 2023.

Then Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced the policy without gaining consent from the fisheries group.

Kishida said the government will be fully responsible for the impact of the discharged treated water and vowed to support fishermen, according to Kishi and officials who attended the meeting.

“Steady progress in the decommissioning (of the Fukushima plant) is a prerequisite for reconstruction (of the affected areas), and we cannot avoid the issue of how to dispose of treated water,” Kishida said. “We will continue to exchange opinions and will make all-out efforts to tackle harmful rumors.”

Earlier in the day, Kishi conveyed similar concern to industry minister Koichi Hagiuda. “We just hope people in the fisheries industry will be able to continue fishing with peace of mind,” he told reporters after seeing Hagiuda in the federation’s office in Tokyo.

During the meeting, Hagiuda handed the group answers in writing to five requests it had submitted.

The government pledged in the document to ensure the safety of treated water as well as take appropriate measures to prevent and tackle reputational damage to food products, among others.

Hagiuda also told the federation it will stick to its promise to the fishermen that the Fukushima plant will not release the water into the sea without their understanding.

The minister told reporters that Kishi “understands the recovery of Fukushima will not complete without disposal of treated water” and expressed hope that the government will “clear anxiety of fishermen by taking appropriate measures.”

The government has already set up a 30 billion yen ($245 million) fund to support the fisheries industry and pledged to buy seafood when demand falls due to harmful rumors.

In the meantime, more than 1 million tons of treated water has accumulated on the premises of the plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. after a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011.

The water, which was contaminated after being pumped in to cool melted reactor fuel, is treated through an advanced liquid processing system that removes radionuclides except for tritium.

Before discharge, it will be diluted with seawater below one 40th of the current regulations, according to the government. It will also be lower than the World Health Organization’s tritium limit in drinking water.

Earlier this year, the International Atomic Energy Agency evaluated the safety of the release of treated water by sending a task force to the Fukushima plant to enhance transparency of the discharge plan and gain international understanding.

In addition to Japan’s local fishing communities, neighboring China and South Korea have also expressed their worries over the water discharge plan.

April 9, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Radioactive water threatens Fukushima fishery’s fragile gains福島水揚げ②20181102134505887_Data.jpg

November 4, 2018
Plant operator plans to dump contaminated water into the ocean
TOKYO — Since a catastrophic nuclear accident seven years ago, Fukushima fishermen have made painstaking efforts to rebuild their livelihood, assiduously testing the radioactivity levels of their catches to ensure safety. Now, rapidly accumulating wastewater from the crippled power plant is again threatening this hard-won business recovery.
Faced with the prospect that there will be no more space to store tanks containing radioactive water leaking from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings and the Japanese government are considering diluting the water and dumping it into the ocean.
Even though Fukushima’s fishery has been recovering, the haul throughout the entire prefecture amounted to about 3,300 tons last year, just 10% of the average prior to the 2011 disaster. And even reaching there has not been easy.
Fish markets in the prefecture now house testing rooms filled with equipment. Staff members mince seafood caught every morning to screen for radioactivity. Such painstaking efforts gradually enabled fishermen to return to the sea, with all fishing and farming operations resuming in February this year.
But the trend could reverse if the government goes through with plans to release nuclear wastewater into the sea.
Tepco has been cooling down the molten fuel cores by pumping water into the ruined reactors. The tainted water is later taken out and treated, but the system in place does not filter out tritium, a radioactive hydrogen isotope.
The tritium-laced water is currently stored in tanks within the premises of Fukushima Daiichi, but space is due to run out within five years.
Tritium occurs naturally and is present in rainwater in the atmosphere. The chemical is not known to accumulate within living things, and it is assumed that it can be safely released in the ocean if properly diluted. Nuclear plants in France and elsewhere normally empty treated tritium wastewater into the sea.
Resolving the wastewater issue is a key step in achieving a sustainable fishing revival in Fukushima, according to Shuji Okuda, an official in charge of decommissioning and wastewater management at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.
“I understand that we should cooperate for revival,” one Fukushima fisher said.
“But I’m afraid of the damage to our reputation,” this fisher said. “I don’t want them to dump anything into the ocean.”
The waters off the coast of Fukushima teem with about 200 species of fish and shellfish, such as flounder, saury and surf clam.
Despite such abundant marine resources, demand for Fukushima seafood has yet to fully recover. At Tokyo’s Toyosu market, wholesale prices for fish caught in the prefecture sell for about 30% cheaper than product from neighboring areas, according to a major wholesaler. Some distributors do not stock up on the prefecture’s seafood for fear of driving away customers.
Before the nuclear accident, fishing boats from other prefectures would visit Fukushima harbors. Now, “they have all but vanished,” said a representative at the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations.
Japan’s trading partners are slowly normalizing restrictions on Fukushima exports — Russia lifted its remaining ban in March. But despite the scientific verification of safety, many localities still block Fukushima marine products.
In turn, domestic lobbying groups are resisting plans to discharge nuclear wastewater into the ocean — at least not until there is consensus at home and abroad that the practice is safe. “As a national representative of fishers, we oppose it,” said JF Zengyoren, the nationwide federation of fishing cooperatives.
“The reputational risk is still at hand,” said Tetsuji Suzuki, managing director at the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations.
“Revival should come after disaster recovery,” Suzuki said.

November 17, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | 1 Comment