The Fukushima nuclear power plant began dumping more than a billion liters of stored water, used to cool its damaged reactors since the catastrophic 2011 earthquake and tsunami, into the Pacific Ocean on Thursday.
Tepco, manager of the facilities, received the go-ahead from the Japanese Government more than two years ago, when it undertook to make an educational effort to overcome the misgivings of the most affected communities. Despite the fact that this has not been the case and more voices have been raised against the plan in other Pacific coastal countries, it has followed its course. Of course, under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Organization.
In recent years, Tepco says it has developed a cleanup technology that renders all radioactive isotopes harmless, with the exception of tritium, whose disposal would be prohibitively expensive. Even so, the tritium dumped a kilometer off the Japanese coast from Thursday, through an underwater pipeline, would be within safety limits, according to Tokyo.
This statement has been disputed by the environmental organization Greenpeace, which speaks of "lack of transparency" and emphasizes that there is no evidence that the level of radioactivity of the tritium dumped should be harmless in the long term.
The patience of Hong Kong, the second international market for Japanese fish and seafood, ran out on Tuesday, along with that of Macau, after banning the import of seafood from ten Japanese prefectures.
The central government of China, its first market (€550 million annually), has gone further and extended the ban to all marine products from the archipelago. Fear of the unknown has led to hoardings in some Chinese supermarkets in recent days to buy sea salt before the spills begin, which could last more than three decades. In Hong Kong, many have postponed their visit to sushi establishments, due to the same fear.
As some experts remember, the risk transcends borders and generations, something agreed on by eighteen Pacific microstates, which today protest against the dumping, as yesterday they protested against the French nuclear tests.
In any case, the bad image for Japan is real and is already being translated into tangible economic damages for the fishing and canning sector. Knowing this, the energy company has assured that it will compensate those affected with the equivalent of 550 million euros, to which is added 190 million from the Government itself.
But a hundred fishermen and shellfish collectors in the area denounce "data concealment" and announced yesterday that they will file a lawsuit.
Twelve years later, Fukushima continues to fuel the debate about the real cost of nuclear power, at a time when Russia's war, as much or more than global warming, has led to its accelerated rehabilitation in Europe even for their staunchest enemies, such as the German Greens.
That political alignment is not unrelated to public health decisions is also evidenced by the reaction according to the different actors on the Asian coast. Thus, there has been no objection to the dumping by the governments of the Philippines, Taiwan or South Korea. Despite the fact that in the latter country, a part of society has rebelled against the acquiescence of the head of government, Yoon Suk-yeol, who last week shook the hand of the Japanese prime minister, Fukio Mishida at Camp David.
Yesterday, sixteen Korean protesters were arrested as they tried to force their way into the Japanese embassy in Seoul at the time of the spill.
Although China already bought more fish and seafood from Ecuador, Russia and India than from Japan, Beijing criticizes the Japanese decision as "selfish and irresponsible" and as an attempt "against food security".
Western experts also question the precedent set by Japan, which ignores the concerns of neighbors with whom it shares water. The radiological study of the same company, in fact, is much later than the political decision. In addition, there is a margin of error: 70% of the water contained in a thousand tanks in Fukushima, close to saturation, will have to be filtered again.