On 13th April, the Japanese government announced that it will dump 1.25 million tons of nuclear wastewater contaminated by the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant into the Pacific Ocean in the next two years. According to a previous study by Germany's Geomar Helmholtz Centre, in 57 days, the Fukushima contaminated nuclear wastewater will pollute half of the Pacific Ocean; in ten years, it will pollute the whole ocean.

Many scientists, environmentalists and citizens from Japan and abroad believe that this is an ongoing threat that must be stopped. People from 88 countries and regions have submitted 64,000 signatures to the government opposing the decision. Japan’s neighbouring countries also condemned this decision. The South Korean government expressed 'strong regret' over the decision and asked Japan to disclose information about the whole process of treatment. The South Korean foreign ministry summoned Japan's top envoy to Seoul and lodged a protest during the meeting. The Chinese government has also expressed deep concern over the move, pointing out that such action is “extremely irresponsible” and "will seriously damage international public health security and the vital interests of people in neighbouring countries."

Although the Japanese government said the water will be treated to international standard before it is released, there are still many concerns about the release.

One concern is that the treatment Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) used cannot remove tritium from the discharge. Tritium is a substance that can be a radiation hazard when inhaled, ingested via food or water, or absorbed through the skin. The Japanese government claimed that the discharge would be safe as the tritium content in the water will be diluted to less than 1/40th of the national standard for tritium discharge of nuclear power plant wastewater. However, many people do not trust the government due to the low credibility the Japanese government has over the years.

For many years, the Japanese government and TEPCO covered the fact that the reactor core of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has melted down after the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The media had also reported leakage accidents at the power plant many times.

Apart from tritium, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear wastewater also contains caesium-137, strontium-90 and many other types of radioactive isotopes that are far more radioactive and has a much longer half-life, about 30 years, comparing to tritium. These radioactive isotopes can cause serious problems for the marine system and humans’ health. Strontium-90 can take hundreds of years to decay to negligible levels and exposure to contaminated water and food can cause blood cancer and bone cancer. The carbon-14 in wastewater might cause genetic damage and can last for thousands of years. According to BBC News, experiments with dogs showed that a single dose of 3.8 millicuries of cesium-137 per kilogram is lethal within three weeks; smaller amounts may cause infertility and cancer.

TEPCO claimed that their Advanced Liquid Processing System(ALPS) can capture 62 kinds of radionuclides. However, many people doubt the treated water is as safe as the Japanese government and TEPCO claimed. According to the last review report from International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA), as of December 2019, only about 28% of the total volume of the ALPS treated water stored in tanks meets the regulatory standards for discharge into the environment apart from tritium. 

Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist from Greenpeace, said that the “treated” wastewater is “absolutely not safe” and “the Japanese government and TEPCO have shown over the years that they cannot be trusted with their assurances.” The Atomic Power Citizens Council, a group of Japanese citizens and academics, has also accused the government and TEPO of being "incorrect and dishonest" in their information disclosure and explanations so far.

Shaun Burnie also said that this decision is not “unavoidable” as the Japanese government claimed. “The clear alternative has existed for years and that’s long-term storage. We forced TEPCO to admit in 2019 that in fact land space on the site was available and the government’s own committee that investigated this issue concluded last year that land would be available outside the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, so the idea that it is running out of space at 2022 is a myth. It just serves the interest of the government to dump this problem into the Pacific.”

“...with increasing opposition to the Japanese government’s decision, I remain optimistic that we can stop this,” said Shaun Burnie.

However, the real situation may not be so optimistic due to the lack of responsibility and transparency of the Japanese government and TEPCO and the lack of united strong opposition from international communities.