UPDATE - Japan begins discharging radioactive water from Fukushima nuclear plant
China calls Tokyo's decision ‘gambling with global marine environment,' suspends all imports of aquatic products from Japan
UPDATES WITH CHINESE MOVE TO SUSPEND IMPORTS OF AQUATIC PRODUCTS FROM JAPAN, ADDS MORE DETAILS, BACKGROUND; REVISES DECK, LEDE
By Servet Gunerigok and Riyaz ul Khaliq
WASHINGTON/ISTANBUL (AA) - Ignoring opposition from fishing communities and China, Japan on Thursday began releasing treated nuclear waste from the crippled Fukushima power plant into the sea.
The water discharge began around 1:00 p.m. local time (0400GMT).
In the first phase, the operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) will dilute around 7,800 tons of the treated water with seawater and the diluted water will be released over 17 consecutive days.
The whole process “could take at least 30 years to complete,” Japanese broadcaster NHK reported.
The TEPCO has already filled a facility, which is called a discharge vertical shaft, with the treated and diluted water.
Each ton of treated water is mixed with about 1,200 tons of seawater.
There are some 1.3 million tons of treated water at the TEPCO complex and the operator is running out of storage capacity which has forced Japan to release the water into the ocean.
TEPCO has planned to release around 31,200 tons of the water, contained in 30 tanks, this year.
Earlier this month, the operator had found a hole in a hose that is used to transfer treated water, following which authorities detected “higher-than-usual levels” of radioactive material in rainwater around a storage tank.
International Atomic Energy Agency has said the release of the nuclear waste would have “negligible radiological impact on people and the environment” but refused to endorse Tokyo’s decision.
In March 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered a tsunami that struck out the backup electric supply at the power plant on Japan’s northeastern Pacific coast, leading to meltdowns in three of its reactors.
Besides facing diplomatic challenges, Japan has faced criticism internally from fishing communities against the move.
Tokyo, however, has announced financial relief for the affected people.
After Tokyo started releasing treated nuclear waste, China suspended all imports of aquatic products from Japan. On Wednesday, Beijing had warned of action if Tokyo proceeds with its plan.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry also summoned Japanese Ambassador Hideo Tarumi on Tuesday and urged Tokyo “to change its mind.”
“The Japanese side is gambling with the global marine environment and the health of all humankind by forcibly promoting the discharge of nuclear-contaminated water into the sea,” Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong told Tarumi.
South Korea's main opposition Democratic Party denounced Tokyo’s plans.
"We strongly condemn Japan's contaminated water terror," said Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Jae-myung.
“Japan's release of nuclear-contaminated water will be recorded as the Second Pacific War," he said.
However, South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo on Thursday urged Japan to "transparently disclose information" about the release of the contaminated water from the crippled nuclear plant.
In the capital Seoul, police detained at least 16 university students who tried to enter the Japanese Embassy to protest Tokyo's release of treated nuclear waste, Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency reported.
Hong Kong will impose a ban on imports of seafood from at least 10 regions in Japan.
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