Final preparations to drain treated water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant began Wednesday, the plant’s operator, TEPCO, said, on the eve of the start of the controversial operation in the Pacific.
Tokyo announced on Tuesday that the drain would begin Thursday, sparking Chinese outrage and a partial ban on Japanese seafood imports imposed by Hong Kong and Macau.
The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), said it diluted a square meter of waste water with about 1,200 cubic meters of seawater, and allowed the softened water to flow into a pipe.
And it indicated in a statement that the water will be subject to analyzes and will be discharged from Thursday into the sea, provided that more water is transferred and diluted.
Tokyo intends to drain more than 1.3 million cubic meters of water, from rainwater, groundwater and injection operations necessary to cool the core of the reactors at the station, which was severely damaged after a violent earthquake followed by a tsunami that caused a nuclear accident on March 11, 2011.
The water has been pre-treated to clear it of radioactive materials, with the exception of tritium, which levels in the water will be within safe limits, according to the Tokyo Electric Power Company.
Therefore, Japan affirms that this process does not pose any threat to the marine environment and human health. She is supported in this view by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which oversees the project and which gave the green light in July.
The UN agency will have observers at the station site on Thursday to supervise the start of the discharge process, which is expected to last for several decades.
On Tuesday, China accused Japan of planning to “discharge nuclear-contaminated water arbitrarily” into the sea, after accusing it earlier of dealing with the Pacific Ocean as a “sewage channel”.
Beijing last month banned food imports from 10 Japanese prefectures, including Fukushima, and is conducting radiation tests on foodstuffs from the rest of the country.
On Tuesday, China summoned the Japanese ambassador there to “formally protest against the Japanese government’s announcement that it will start discharging the nuclear-contaminated Fukushima waters into the sea.”
Hong Kong and Macau have announced bans on imports of “aquatic products” from the same 10 provinces.
Analysts say that although China may have real safety concerns, its aggressive responses may be driven in part by its economic competition and frosty relations with Japan.