A group of South Korean fisheries filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government on Thursday over plans to release radioactive wastewater from the decommissioned Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.
Three of the plant’s nuclear reactors melted down after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused the cooling systems to fail. The explosions forced almost 160,000 people to evacuate.
More than a million tons of water have been contaminated in the process of cleaning up the catastrophe. The wastewater is filtered to remove most of the radioactive elements except traces of tritium, which is supposedly only dangerous to humans in large quantities. The treated water is then kept in massive tanks on the site. But these storage facilities are expected to reach capacity by 2022, according to the plant’s operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO).
In April, TEPCO and the Japanese government announced plans to release the diluted and treated wastewater into the ocean despite pushback from the fishing industry and environmental groups. Local industry groups in South Korea, Taiwan, China and Japan expressed concern that the pollution will harm marine life and stigmatize the region’s products.
The fisheries request damages of 10 million won per day, or USD $8,850, to compensate for an estimated 50 percent drop in sales revenue if the contaminated water is released. However, the fate of the lawsuit is uncertain as many suspect the Japanese government will be protected by sovereign immunity. Past attempts at accountability have proven to be unsuccessful as well. Three former TEPCO executives were acquitted on criminal negligence charges in 2019.