Residents and fishermen file a lawsuit demanding a stop to the discharge of Fukushima wastewater

TOKYO (AP) — Fishermen and residents of Fukushima and five other prefectures along Japan’s northeast coast filed a lawsuit Friday demanding a halt to the ongoing discharge of treated radioactive wastewater from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea.

In the lawsuit filed in the Fukushima District Court, the 151 plaintiffs, two-thirds from Fukushima and the rest from Tokyo and four other prefectures, say the discharge harms the fishing community’s livelihood and violates residents’ right to a peaceful life their lawyers.

The release of the purified and diluted wastewater The discharge, which began on August 24 and is expected to continue for several decades, is strongly opposed by fishing groups who fear it will tarnish the image of their catch, even if it is safe.

Three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant melted after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in 2011 destroyed their cooling systems. The plant continues to produce highly radioactive water, which is collected, treated and stored in approximately 1,000 tanks that cover much of the plant complex.

The government and the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, say the tanks must be removed to allow the plant to be decommissioned.

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The plaintiffs are seeking the revocation of safety permits issued by the Nuclear Regulation Authority to discharge the wastewater and a halt to the discharge, said lawyer Kenjiro Kitamura.

The government and TEPCO say the treated water meets legal limits and is diluted hundreds of times with seawater before being discharged into the sea. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which reviewed the release plan at Japan’s request, concluded that the impact of the release on the environment, marine life and people will be negligible.

“Intentional release into the sea is an intentional harmful act that aggravates the (nuclear power plant) accident,” said another lawyer, Hiroyuki Kawai. He said the sea is a public resource and it would be unethical for a company to dump wastewater there.

TEPCO said it could not comment until it received a copy of the lawsuit.

China banned In response to the release, Hong Kong and Macau banned imports from 10 prefectures including Fukushima. Groups in South Korea have also condemned the dismissal.

China is the largest importer of Japanese seafood and its ban has hit the industry hard.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved a 20.7 billion yen ($141 million) emergency fund to help exporters suffering from the Chinese ban. The fund adds to 80 billion yen ($547 million) the government previously allocated to support fisheries and seafood processing and to combat reputational damage to Japanese products.

Kishida, while attending a summit of Southeast Asian leaders in Indonesia, said China’s ban was in stark contrast to many other countries’ broad understanding of the release.

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