US backs Japan's plan to release radioactive water from Fukushima despite pushback from South Korea, China, and Russia
- Washington has backed Japan's plan to release radioactive water from Fukushima into the Pacific Ocean.
- On Sunday, US climate envoy John Kerry said the US has "confidence" that Japan will be "transparent."
- South Korea, China, and Russia all object to the release of 1.2 million tons of contaminated water.
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The US has backed Japan's controversial decision to release over 1.2 million tonnes of contaminated water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean.
Climate envoy John Kerry said during a press conference in Seoul on Sunday that he was "confident" that the Japanese government would "continue following due procedures."
The US has thrown its weight behind Japan even as the country faces strong pushback from its neighbors on its decision, first announced on April 13, to release the contaminated water from Fukushima into the sea. The objections have not ceased despite Japan's repeated assertions that the contaminated water would be released only when it is "safe to drink."
"The US is confident that the government of Japan is in very full consultations with the International Atomic Energy Agency," Kerry said on Sunday, adding that the IAEA has "set up a very rigorous process."
He noted that Washington would be monitoring the release of the water closely, to make sure the release of the water would not pose a threat to public health.
According to Al Jazeera, Kerry also clarified that the US would stay out of the "process that's already underway," as there are "very clear rules and expectations" in place.
Kerry's comments on Sunday followed South Korean foreign minister Chung Eui-yong's attempt to bring up Korea's objections to Japan's Fukushima water release plan at an official dinner on Saturday.
"Minister Chung conveyed our government and people's serious concerns about Japan's decision, and asked the US side to take interest and cooperate so that Japan will provide information in a more transparent and speedy manner," said the South Korean foreign ministry in a statement on April 17.
Japan has been storing some 1.2 million tons of radioactive water - enough to fill 500 Olympic-size swimming pools - in more than 1,000 tanks following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami which decimated parts of northern Japan and its coastal regions.
The water - which was used to cool the melted-down core reactors in the wake of the disaster - has been handled by the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) for the last decade. In 2018, TEPCO admitted that not all the radioactive material it claimed to have filtered out of the water had been processed.
The discharge of the water is set to begin in 2023. It will not be released in one go, but in gradual stages that could take twenty to thirty years.
South Korea, China, and Russia object to radioactive water release
China and South Korea have objected to Japan's plan to release the contaminated water in stages, arguing that the sheer volume of contaminated water flowing into the Pacific Ocean could become a health, food safety, and environmental hazard.
Environmental groups in South Korea staged rallies last week calling for Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga to reconsider his decision to release the contaminated water. Protesters gathered outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul with banners bearing pictures of salmon steaks, prawns, and mussels with radioactive symbols slapped onto them.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian gave a snappy comment that went viral on social media site Weibo (China's version of Twitter), where he dared Japanese finance minister Taro Aso and other officials to "drink the water first" to prove that it is safe, calling Japan's move "highly irresponsible."
Zhao's comments came as hashtags including "Fukushima water could destroy half the Pacific Ocean in 57 days" and "Japan is inflicting a disaster on other nations" trended on Weibo, with some calling for a boycott of Japanese seafood.
Russia has also expressed "serious concern" over Japan's plan to release the treated wastewater, asking for a "detailed explanation."