Japan's plan to dump Fukushima water into the Pacific raises a wave of rejection in Asia | International

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Protest against the spill, this Monday in front of the office of the Japanese prime minister, in Tokyo.Eugene Hoshiko (AP)

More than 12 years later, the Fukushima accident is still kicking. The approval of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA, dependent on the United Nations) to the Japanese plan to dump into the Pacific Ocean radioactive water treated from that nuclear power plant is far from having calmed the spirits in the rest of the Asian continent, where the 60 lives % of world population. If last week China announced that it will prohibit the importation of food from some regions of the Japanese country (the closest ones), this Monday a group of deputies from the South Korean opposition landed in Tokyo to protest against the decision and charge against the IAEA report , which they describe as “empty” and exempt from “scientific evidence”.

Since March 2011, when the accident occurred —caused by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami—, the atomic power plant has accumulated 1.33 million tons of treated radioactive water. A significant amount that has brought the facilities very close to their maximum capacity: 1.37 million tons, a figure that will be reached early next year, according to official data. Over time, these liquids have mixed with water from rain and underground torrents.

Last Friday, the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) gave its final approval to the Fumio Kishida government's project to dump the waters from Fukushima into the ocean and, therefore, proceed to discharge of the tanks. His necessary acquiescence came shortly after the IAEA confirmed that the Tokyo roadmap met international standards. Also after, less than a year ago, the Executive left behind the post-Fukushima nuclear blackout to once again embrace this source of energy with the promise of building state-of-the-art reactors.

The IAEA: "We are neutral, we do not take sides"

The head of the UN arm for atomic energy, Rafael Grossi, sees "absolutely logical" that the Japanese plan has aroused debate in the rest of the region, but maintains the validity of his diagnosis, clearly favorable to the release of the waters: “Everyone trusts the scientific work of the IAEA. We are neutral: we do not take sides, we look at the results of the evaluation and we make a decision”.

The Argentine diplomat has also denied the existence of "any type of disagreement" internally in the organization he commands. "This is our final report, and none of our experts have come to tell me not to support its content," he reaffirmed in an interview with the South Korean news agency Yonhap. With his trip to Seoul, Grossi sought to temper the mood after the growing controversy.

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The voices against the spill, however, have not stopped happening. In Japan, both the fishing industry and various towns around Fukushima prefecture (in the east of the country) have raised their voices to reject the plan, despite the government's promise that "all measures have been taken to avoid damage to the reputation of the sector”. On the economic level, the Kishida Executive has already committed financial aid valued at 50,000 million yen (about 300 million euros).

In foreign key, the dust storm continues. Beijing has not only banned the import of food from the area, but has also reminded Tokyo of its promise made in 2015 not to release the waters into the ocean if it did not have the approval of all the parties involved, including that of neighboring countries. Something that, in his opinion, does not happen today. And other neighboring countries, such as North Korea – like China, which has been at odds with Japan for decades – have opposed it, arguing a “fatal adverse impact”.

Dissenting voices in South Korea

Despite the fact that the South Korean government—Japan's closest neighbor and a country with which diplomatic relations have improved substantially in recent times—has formally given its go-ahead to the plan after nearly two years of study on the issue, the opposition movement reflects an important social division around this issue. Seoul, in fact, has spent weeks trying to calm the —in his opinion— “excessive fear” for a spill that will have “insignificant consequences”.

In the South Korean population, however, the same tranquility that the official message tries to instil does not reign by far. “Japan says that, according to scientific evidence, there will be no problems. But even so, I'm a little worried," Yang Ok-Ryeo, a fish vendor at the Noryangjin market (in Seoul), said last Friday in statements to the US news agency AP. One of his clients, Lim Young, 55, expressed himself in similar terms: “I think it's dangerous. I have doubts that it will be safe to eat, even if it is caught here. [en Corea]”. A vast majority of public opinion opposes the spill, according to several polls published in recent days.

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