Despite mounting pressure, Japan has begun injecting seawater into a drainage tunnel of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant as a first step to release treated radioactive wastewater into the ocean.
The tunnel was filled with water on Tuesday, triggering a sharp response from the Chinese mission in Tokyo.
Japan plans to release treated radioactive wastewater into the ocean, triggering opposition and concerns from local fishing communities and neighboring countries.
"The harm caused by the discharge of nuclear water into the sea is immeasurable," China's diplomatic mission in Japan said in a statement.
"Workers at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are sending seawater into an underwater tunnel that has been built to release treated and diluted water from the facility into the ocean," Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported.
"Once filled with seawater, the tunnel will guide treated water from the plant to a point about 1 kilometer offshore."
The water release system is nearing completion, with the exception of a reservoir that will store treated water prior to its release. The utility aims to finish all construction tasks by the end of June.
The water used to cool the molten fuel at the facility combines with rain and groundwater. The accumulated water undergoes treatment to eliminate radioactive substances and is then stored in tanks located on the plant's grounds.
The government intends to dilute the filtered water to significantly lower the tritium concentration, well below the allowed limit stipulated by national regulations, reported NHK.
Urging Japan not to put future generations at risk, the Chinese Embassy stressed that besides ocean discharge, formation injection, steam discharge, hydrogen discharge, and underground burial are also viable options. However, it is “irresponsible” for the Japanese side not to seriously consider and show other extermination options.
Zhang Kejian, Chairman of China Atomic Energy Authority, also criticized Japan's "extremely irresponsible" act.
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Japan disregarded the concerns of its people and other countries, providing no scientific answers or consulting with neighbors and stakeholders, he said at an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors meeting held on Monday in Austria.
A signature campaign was launched in South Korea last week to oppose Japan's intended discharge of radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.
The campaign was initiated by South Korea's leading opposition Democratic Party in the capital Seoul.
DP Chairman Lee Jae-Myung expressed his concerns, questioning how the president and the ruling party can support Japan and grant them immunity and permission to dispose of hazardous nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean.
Japan unveiled the water discharge plan in April 2021, triggering massive criticism from China, South Korea, North Korea, the island nation of Taiwan, and international bodies, including the UN.
The US, however, backed the proposal, which came after years of talks on how to get rid of more than 1 million tons of water accumulated at the Fukushima nuclear complex since its meltdown after a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
Japan has pledged $600 million in funds for local fishing communities that have also voiced opposition to the move.
The IAEA has conducted an assessment of the Japanese government's proposal and is expected to release a comprehensive report.
It has also pledged to provide support before, during, and after the entire discharge process.