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Fukushima fishermen admit they are worried about the reputation of their products but insist they ‘appreciate the efforts’ of the Japanese government.

12 years after the Fukushima disaster, Japan is working hard to overcome challenges posed by its water. Since the Tohoku tsunami of 11 March 2011, Japan has been decommissioning and decontaminating the nuclear power plant, which is expected to take 30 to 40 years.  

Now, the plant must urgently empty its water tanks.

Euronews spoke to Kimoto Takahiro, the Deputy Site Superintendent at D&D Communication Center, Fukushima Daiichi D&D., Co., Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to ask where the water comes from.

“The water that accumulates every day was used to cool the molten fuel”, Kimoto explained. “And there is also water from underground springs or rain that accumulates.”

This water is treated in ALPS, a unit specially designed for Fukushima. It removes almost all the radioactive substances.

The treated water is then stored in a thousand tanks, but they have reached their maximum capacity. This year, Japan will release the treated water into the sea.

However, a small amount of radioactive substance, called tritium, still remains, as it’s inseparable from the water.

90,000 samples of treated water are analysed in a laboratory each year in preparation for dilution in the sea. After a second treatment in ALPS, the water will be discharged into the sea through a tunnel, which is one kilometre long and built at a depth of 16 metres. The tunnel is set to be completed this spring.

Just before it reaches the Pacific, the water will be diluted one last time in large seawater pools.

In order to find out whether marine life will be affected by the radioactivity, the nuclear power plant is rearing fish in separate pools.

“There are basins of natural seawater on one side, and basins of treated water mixed with seawater on the other”, Kimoto Takahiro told Euronews.

“We are going to discharge water at a much lower level than the drinking water standard set by the WHO”, he added.

But the fishermen of Fukushima are worried about the reputation of their products. In the port of Onahama, 60 kilometres from the power station, their work has already suffered from apprehension among consumers. From 25,000 tonnes per year before 2011, only 5,000 tonnes of fish are now caught, according to the president of the fishermen’s association.

“As a fisherman in Fukushima, I am against the release of radioactive materials into our workplace. What worries us is the negative reputation this creates”, said Nozaki Tetsu, Chairman of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations.

However, Nozaki recognised that “in terms of the explanations we’ve had from the government over the last 10 years, they have not been false, so we appreciate their efforts. And therefore, if we can also presume their scientific explanations haven’t been false, we will make an effort to continue fishing while at the same time fostering better consumer understanding, and, by doing this, I think we can limit most of the reputational damage.”

After the daily catch, one fish of each species is analysed in this laboratory in the port. Everything is monitored.

Of the 63 species tested while Euronews was present, not a single one had any trace of radioactivity. That means they are all for sale.

In one year, only once has a fish exceeded the authorised stage. This stage is strictly set at 50 bequerel in Fukushima, whereas the international standard allows 1000 bequerel. The monitoring will continue after the discharge of water.

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