Japan's new Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa pledged Wednesday to do her best to "enhance Japan's presence," with the nation facing challenges including building stable ties with China and tackling military threats posed by neighboring nations.Minister Yoko was appointed Wednesday as part of a cabinet reshuffle, becoming the first female foreign minister in around 20 years in Japan, reported Kyodo. In her first press conference after being appointed Foreign Minister, Yoko said that she will make efforts to contribute "not only to Japan's interest but also to the peace of the world"She was appointed as foreign minister at a time when Tokyo and Beijing have been at odds over issues such as Japan's release of treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean that started on Aug. 24. Yoko is one of the five female ministers in the reshuffled Cabinet. The 70-year-old House of Representatives member previously served three terms as justice minister.The new Japanese Foreign Minister is likely to visit New York next week to attend the ongoing annual session of the UN General Assembly and other meetings on its sidelines. (QNA)
Japan's prime minister hit out at Beijing on Monday over what he said were instances of stones being thrown at diplomatic missions and schools in China, following the release of wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant.Last week, China banned all seafood imports from its neighbour after Japan began releasing cooling water from the stricken Fukushima plant in an operation that Tokyo and the UN's nuclear watchdog have said is safe.Since then, Japanese businesses ranging from bakeries to aquariums have received reportedly thousands of sometimes abusive crank calls from Chinese numbers."There have been numerous harassment calls believed to originate from China and instances of stones being thrown into the Japanese embassy and Japanese schools. It must be said these are regrettable," Fumio Kishida told reporters."We summoned the Chinese ambassador to Japan today and strongly urged him to call on Chinese people to act in a calm and responsible manner," Kishida added.The comments came after Japan said it was heightening security at its diplomatic missions and schools in China.Tokyo over the weekend told its tens of thousands of nationals living in China to keep a low profile and not to speak Japanese loudly in public.Deputy Foreign Minister Masataka Okano told ambassador Wu Jianghao that China should properly inform the public "rather than unnecessarily raising people's concerns by providing information that is not based on scientific evidence", the foreign ministry said in a statement.Social media users in China have posted recordings and videos of the nuisance calls, some of which have attracted tens of thousands of likes and a large number of comments."Since the start of the discharge... there have been numerous phone calls and other harassment regarding the discharge that are suspected of originating from China. The situation has not improved since then," Okano told Wu."A number of similar incidents are also happening in China against Japan-related facilities. This is extremely regrettable and we are deeply concerned," he said, according to the release.Japan has begun releasing more than 500 Olympic swimming pools' worth of wastewater from Fukushima into the Pacific, 12 years after a tsunami knocked out three reactors in one of the world's worst atomic accidents.Plant operator TEPCO says all radioactive elements have been filtered out except for tritium, levels of which are within safe limits.Test results since the start of the discharge have confirmed this, according to Japanese authorities.
Japan summoned China's ambassador on Monday to protest against a flood of nuisance calls from China to local businesses following the release of water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.Deputy Foreign Minister Masataka Okano told ambassador Wu Jianghao that China should properly inform the public "rather than unnecessarily raising people's concerns by providing information that is not based on scientific evidence", the foreign ministry said in a statement.Last week, China banned all seafood imports from its neighbour after Japan began releasing cooling water from the stricken Fukushima plant in an operation that Tokyo and the UN's nuclear watchdog have said is safe.Since then, apparently randomly chosen Japanese businesses ranging from bakeries to aquariums have received reportedly thousands of sometimes abusive crank calls from Chinese numbers.Social media users in China have posted recordings and videos of these calls, some of which have attracted tens of thousands of likes and a large number of comments."Since the start of the discharge... there have been numerous phone calls and other harassment regarding the discharge that are suspected of originating from China. The situation has not improved since then," Okano told Wu."A number of similar incidents are also happening in China against Japan-related facilities. This is extremely regrettable and we are deeply concerned," he said, according to the release.Japan's embassy over the weekend urged the tens of thousands of Japanese living in China to keep a low profile and not talk loudly in public.On Monday, it said it had increased security measures outside Japanese schools and diplomatic missions in China.According to Japanese media, there have been several incidents of stones and eggs being thrown at Japanese schools.Japan has begun releasing more than 500 Olympic swimming pools' worth of wastewater from Fukushima into the Pacific, 12 years after a tsunami knocked out three reactors in one of the world's worst atomic accidents.Plant operator TEPCO says that all radioactive elements have been filtered out except for tritium, levels of which are within safe limits.Test results since the start of the discharge have confirmed this, according to Japanese authorities.
Final preparations to discharge wastewater from the crippled Fukushima power plant in Japan were under way Wednesday, its operator said, a day before the scheduled release into the Pacific Ocean.Tokyo had announced on Tuesday that the operation would begin on Thursday, prompting an angry response from China and partial import bans on Japanese seafood by Hong Kong and Macau.The operator of the plant, TEPCO, said that it diluted late Tuesday a cubic metre of the wastewater with around 1,200 cubic metres of seawater and allowed it to flow into position in a pipe.This water will be tested and then from Thursday released into the Pacific Ocean together with more water stored at the site that will be transferred and diluted, TEPCO said in a statement.Media reports said the operation would begin around 1:00 pm (0400 GMT), while the operator declined to confirm the reports.The Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station was knocked out by a massive earthquake and tsunami that killed around 18,000 people in March 2011, sending three of its reactors into meltdown.TEPCO has since collected 1.34 million cubic metres of water -- almost 540 Olympic swimming pools' worth -- used to cool what remains of the still highly radioactive reactors, mixed with groundwater and rain.A special system has filtered out all radioactive nuclides except for tritium, levels of which will be well below that released by nuclear power plants in their normal operations -- including in China, TEPCO says.The release has been endorsed by the UN's nuclear watchdog -- the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) -- which said it will have staff on site on Thursday.With around 1,000 steel containers holding the water at the site, TEPCO says that it needs to clear space for the next stage of the lengthy, expensive and risky decommissioning of the plant.That is the removal of molten nuclear fuel and radioactive rubble from the wrecked reactors, an operation so dangerous that TEPCO will need to use robots and not humans.The plant operator will carry out four releases of treated water from Thursday until March 2024, with 7,800 cubic metres of water released each time, its documents showed.The first discharge will take about 17 days. About 5 trillion becquerels of tritium will be released this fiscal year, TEPCO added.- 'Sewer' -China has accused Japan of treating the ocean like a "sewer", banning imports of food from 10 of Japan's 47 prefectures even before the water release and imposing strict radiation checks.Beijing on Tuesday summoned Japan's ambassador "to make solemn representations", while Hong Kong and Macau, both Chinese territories, banned the import of "aquatic products" from the same 10 regions.Analysts said that while China may have genuine safety concerns, its strong reaction is also at least in part motivated by its economic rivalry and frosty relations with Japan.The South Korean government, which is seeking to improve ties with Japan, has not objected although many ordinary people are worried and have staged protests.Social media posts in China and South Korea have included false claims about the release including doctored images of deformed fish with claims they were linked to Fukushima.Japan has sought to counter online misinformation as well as win over sceptics at home and abroad, with everything from study tours of Fukushima to livestreams of fish living in the wastewater.This outreach, backed by the IAEA, has spread to Pacific islands, where Western nations conducted nuclear weapons tests in the 20th century.Fiji's Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and Mark Brown, premier of the Cook Islands -- which IAEA chief Rafael Grossi visited in July -- on Tuesday voiced their support for the agency's findings."This is not a decision taken lightly, as I will never support unsafe and dangerous nuclear dumping," Brown said in a statement on Wednesday."I believe that the discharge meets international safety standards."
Hong Kong will ban "aquatic products" from 10 Japanese prefectures, a government minister said Tuesday, after city leader John Lee condemned Tokyo's plans to release water from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean.Japan has said the gradual release into the sea of more than 500 Olympic swimming pools' worth of water -- 12 years after the Fukushima disaster -- is safe, a view backed by the UN atomic agency.But the decision has incited massive pushback from neighbouring South Korea and China, as well as finance hub Hong Kong -- the second-largest receiver of food products from Japan after mainland China."The (Hong Kong) government will ban the imports of all aquatic products from 10 prefectures of Japan from the 24th of August," Tse Chin-wan, Hong Kong's Secretary for Environment and Ecology, said during a press conference.The products include "all live, frozen, chilled, dried or otherwise preserved aquatic products, sea salt and raw or processed seaweeds".Tse also said there was no timeline for how long the ban would be in place, as it would depend on "how well the Japanese government's supervising system works".Japanese food is extremely popular in Hong Kong, home to groceries specialising in imported seafood products as well as upscale omakase restaurants.Tuesday's decision came the same day the Japanese government announced it would start discharging the water, with city leader John Lee taking Tokyo to task for deciding "on its own"."It disregards the risks to food safety and the irreversible pollution and damage to the ocean ecology, and is an irresponsible way of pushing one's problems onto others," Lee said in a Facebook post earlier on Tuesday."I express my strong objections," he added, calling on relevant agencies to "immediately activate" import control measures.The 10 prefectures named were Tokyo, Fukushima, Chiba, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Gunma, Miyagi, Niigata, Nagano and Saitama.Last month, China's General Administration of Customs threatened a blanket ban on all foodstuffs from the same 10 prefectures.Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin renewed Beijing's objections on Tuesday, saying it would take "necessary measures to safeguard the marine environment, food safety and public health".In releasing the water, Wang said, Japan "is openly... putting its own self-interest over the long-term well-being of all humankind".Japan's diplomatic representatives in Hong Kong have opposed the import curbs and have met with Lee and senior government officials in recent weeks.
Hunters in Japan's remote north have killed an elusive and infamous brown bear nicknamed "Ninja" that attacked at least 66 cows, officials said Tuesday.The exploits of "OSO18", as the bear was named, attracted considerable news coverage including dramatic television documentaries.The animal is believed to have started attacking livestock in 2019 in eastern areas of Hokkaido, Japan's sparsely populated main northern island.Its habit of not eating the dairy cows that it attacked -- only half of its 66 victims died -- confused experts, and it eluded years of efforts to capture or kill it.Late last month, the bear was shot dead."A brown bear was hunted on July 30, and various analyses, including DNA testing, resulted in a confirmation that it was OSO18," Tadayoshi Takeda, an official with the Hokkaido regional government, told AFP on Tuesday."I am sure local residents are relieved to hear this news," he said.Brown bears in Japan only live in Hokkaido where their population is estimated at almost 12,000 but growing, causing increasing problems as they come into contact with humans.In 2021 four people were killed in incidents involving bears and 10 were injured -- a record number.
Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan will start releasing treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea on Thursday, weather conditions permitting, despite concerns among local fishermen and persistent opposition from China.The controversial decision was made at a ministerial meeting on Tuesday morning, as a significant amount of the water has accumulated at the site since the 2011 nuclear accident triggered by a devastating earthquake and ensuing tsunami, according to Japan's News Agency (KYODO).In April 2021, Kishida's predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, gave his approval for the release of the water into the Pacific Ocean "in around two years."The International Atomic Energy Agency concluded in July that Japan's plan aligns with global safety standards and would have a "negligible radiological impact on people and the environment," prompting the government to proceed with the water discharge.The Fukushima plant has stored more than 1.3 million tons of water through a custom purification system known as the Advanced Liquid Processing System, since three reactors melted down after a powerful earthquake struck off the coast in March 2011.
Japanese premier Fumio Kishida said Sunday his government has not yet decided when to begin releasing treated water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean.Media reports suggest that the discharge of some of the 1.34 million tonnes of water, which Japan insists is safe, could begin as soon as this month, despite anger from China and concern elsewhere.Speaking at the Fukushima site, wrecked by a tsunami in 2011 in one of the world's worst atomic accidents, Kishida said he would first meet fishing industry officials to discuss their concerns."I must refrain from commenting on a concrete timing of the release into the ocean at this point, as the decision has to be made after the government as a whole looks at measures to do with safety and reputational damage (for the fishing industry)," Kishida told reporters."I hope to meet with fishermen, led by chairman (Masanobu) Sakamoto of Japan's fisheries cooperative federation, as early as tomorrow," the prime minister said.Many Japanese fishermen are against the release, fearing that it will undo years of efforts to improve the industry's image in the wake of the 2011 catastrophe.The water, equivalent to more than 500 Olympic swimming pools, has accumulated in the past 12 years from water used to cool three melted-down reactors combined with groundwater and rain.Plant operator TEPCO says that dangerous radioactive elements have been filtered out and that the water it plans to release is safe, a view backed by the UN atomic agency.Japan has spent months trying to win over public opinion at home and abroad, with everything from livestreaming fish living in the treated water to efforts to counter online disinformation.Public concern about the plan remains high in South Korea but its government said its review of the plan found it in line with international standards.But China, which has frosty relations with Japan, has banned food imports from 10 Japanese prefectures and has imposed stringent radiation tests on food from the rest of the country.The release of the treated water -- a maximum of 500,000 litres per day, TEPCO says -- is just one stage of the clean-up.The far more dangerous task remains of removing radioactive debris and highly dangerous nuclear fuel from the three reactors that went into meltdown.
Tokyo shares closed lower Wednesday on worries over the Chinese economy, with falls on US markets also affecting sentiment.The benchmark Nikkei 225 index gave up 1.46 percent, or 472.07 points, to 31,766.82, while the broader Topix index fell 1.29 percent, or 29.47 points, to 2,260.84.The dollar stood at 145.48 yen, nearly flat from 145.57 yen in New York."Shares related to energy, natural resources, banking, trading houses and steelmaking are among losers today," said Chihiro Ota of SMBC Nikko Securities."In other words, once investors view the Chinese economy with suspicion, markets for commodities and natural resources sour," Ota said.Among worries are the financial troubles of a major Chinese property developer as well as Chinese trust firms missing payments on their products.Stronger-than-expected US retail data has also rekindled speculation about US rate hikes, Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management wrote in a note."While a healthy consumer is often perceived as a good thing by markets," Innes wrote, "the surprising retail strength could raise questions about how far along the Fed is in its fight against inflation, as such high demand might suggest there is still room to go on the rates front."In the Tokyo market, banking shares faced selling as uncertainty over the US financial sector drove down banking stocks on Wall Street.Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group fell 2.91 percent to 1,088.5 yen. Its rival Mizuho Financial Group lost 2.12 percent to 2,262 yen while Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group fell 1.56 percent to 6,301 yen.Nippon Steel slipped 2.60 percent to 3,320 yen. Energy developer INPEX lost 2.25 percent to 1,979.5 yen.Top trading house Mitsubishi Corp. shed 3.19 percent to 6,941 yen.Heavily weighted Fast Retailing, which operates the Uniqlo brand, retreated 1.87 percent to 33,520 yen. High-tech investor SoftBank Group gave up 3.13 percent to 6,466 yen.
Japan's prime minister hit out at Russian threats to use nuclear weapons as the country marked the 78th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Sunday.Around 140,000 people died in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and 74,000 in Nagasaki three days later, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on the two Japanese cities days before the end of World War II."Japan, as the only nation to have suffered atomic bombings in war, will continue efforts towards a nuclear-free world," Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at a ceremony in Hiroshima."The path towards it is becoming increasingly difficult because of deepening divisions in the international community over nuclear disarmament and Russia's nuclear threat," he said."Given this situation, it is all the more important to bring back international momentum towards realisation of a nuclear-free world," he said."Devastation brought to Hiroshima and Nagasaki by nuclear weapons can never be repeated," said Kishida, whose family comes from Hiroshima.Kishida's comments echoed those of UN chief Antonio Guterres, who issued a statement on the Hiroshima anniversary saying that "some countries are recklessly rattling the nuclear sabre once again, threatening to use these tools of annihilation.""In the face of these threats, the global community must speak as one. Any use of nuclear weapons is unacceptable," Guterres said.At the ceremony, thousands of people -- survivors, relatives and foreign dignitaries from a record 111 countries -- prayed for those killed or wounded in the bombing and called for world peace.Russia and Belarus were not invited to the ceremony for the second straight year because of the Ukraine crisis.Participants, many dressed in black, offered a silent prayer at 8:15 am (2315 GMT Saturday) when the first nuclear weapon used in wartime was dropped. - Nuclear disarmament -Kishida hosted the G7 summit in the city earlier this year.Kishida has tried to move nuclear disarmament up the global agenda, taking leaders of wealthy democracies to Hiroshima's peace park memorials and museum.However, there is little appetite to reduce stockpiles with Russia repeatedly issuing thinly veiled warnings that Moscow could use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, as well as repeated North Korean missile tests and stalling efforts towards non-proliferation.Earlier this month, more than 100 medical journals across the world issued a rare joint call for urgent action to eliminate nuclear weapons, warning that the threat of nuclear catastrophe was "great and growing." The anniversary follows the US release of blockbuster "Oppenheimer," a biopic about J. Robert Oppenheimer, one of the creators of atomic weapons.No release date has been announced for Japan and there is speculation it may not show in cinemas at all."Seventy-eight years went by and people are starting to forget, so it's a good moment to make a movie and remind us about what happened," Ryo Kento, a student, told AFP in Tokyo ahead of the Hiroshima anniversary.Last week, Japanese social media users expressed outrage after Internet memes referencing the films "Barbie" and "Oppenheimer" were circulated using the hashtag #Barbenheimer.Memes shared on social media combined images from both, with one showing a cheering Barbie -- a wildly popular children's doll -- on the shoulders of Oppenheimer, against the backdrop of an apocalyptic blast. Warner Bros. Japan, the local distributor of "Barbie," later apologised for appearing to back the memes' circulation. "As many died, I don't think it's something to be made fun of," Kento said.
Internet memes referencing the films "Barbie" and "Oppenheimer" have sparked anger online in Japan, the only country to ever have been attacked in wartime with nuclear weapons.One film is about a wildly popular children's doll and the other is a biopic about J. Robert Oppenheimer, one of the creators of atomic weapons.Memes shared on social media combined images from both, with one showing a cheering Barbie on the shoulders of Oppenheimer, against the backdrop of an apocalyptic blast."Do they know how many people died when that mushroom cloud appeared?... Don't have fun with the atomic bomb," said one irate Japanese social media user, using the hashtag #NoBarbenheimer.Around 140,000 people died in Hiroshima and 74,000 in Nagasaki when the United States dropped atomic bombs on the two Japanese cities days before the end of World War II in 1945."We just want (the US) to know what kind of devastation the two atomic bombs caused before speaking, not just for Japan but also for the world," wrote another user.The official account of the "Barbie" movie on X, formerly known as Twitter, replied to one such image, saying: "It's going to be a summer to remember" accompanied by a blowing kiss emoji. The message, which on Tuesday was no longer visible, prompted Warner Bros. Japan, the local distributor of "Barbie", to apologise."We apologise to those who were offended by this series of inconsiderate reactions," Warner Bros. Japan said in a statement.The distributor also said the replies by the US official account were "extremely regrettable", adding they are urging the headquarters to "take appropriate action"."Barbie" is due to be released in Japan later this month, but no date has been set for "Oppenheimer". Both films have been major box-office successes in the United States.
Japan issued heatstroke alerts Sunday to tens of millions of people as near-record high temperatures scorched swathes of the country, while torrential rain pummelled other regions.National broadcaster NHK warned viewers that the heat was at life-threatening levels, as temperatures soared to nearly 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in some places, including the capital Tokyo."Please stay hydrated and use air conditioners appropriately, and refrain from outings that seem difficult," a news presenter said.The government issued heatstroke alerts for 20 of the country's 47 prefectures, mainly in the east and southwest, affecting tens of millions of people.Heat can kill by inducing heatstroke, which damages the brain, kidneys and other organs, but it can also trigger other conditions such as a heart attack or breathing problems.Kiryu city in Gunma prefecture, north of Tokyo, saw the mercury reach 39.7C while Hachioji in western Tokyo reached 38.9C, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.Japan's highest temperature ever recorded was 41.1C, which was first recorded in Kumagaya city, in Saitama, in 2018 and then matched in Hamamatsu city, Shizuoka, in 2020.Some places experienced their highest temperatures in more than four decades on Sunday, including Hirono town in Fukushima prefecture with 37.3C, and hot spring resort city Nasushiobara with 35.4C, according to the weather agency's data.Meanwhile, torrential rain continued to lash northern Japan, where flooding and at least one landslide have been recorded.A man was found dead in a car submerged in a rice field in Akita prefecture, police told AFP, a week after seven people were killed in similar weather in the country's southwest.Since last weekend, a heavy band of precipitation has dumped record-breaking amounts of rain in some parts of Japan, causing rivers to overflow and sodden earth to collapse in landslides.Japan is experiencing its annual rainy season, which often brings heavy downpours, and sometimes results in flooding and landslides, as well as casualties.But scientists say climate change is intensifying the risk of heavy rains in Japan and elsewhere because a warmer atmosphere holds more water.
An earthquake measuring 5 magnitude on the Richter scale hit off the coast of Japan's Hokkaido island on Tuesday.The epicentre of the earthquake occurred off the coast of Kushiro city, at a depth of 70 km, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.No tsunami warning was issued, and there were no immediate reports of casualties or material damage as a result of the earthquake.Japan is located at the meeting point of four tectonic plates, which makes it particularly vulnerable to seismic activity, and is also home to 100 active volcanoes.An earthquake in 2011, with a magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale, and a tsunami, caused the death of more than 15,000 people, and a disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant.
Japan will host a meeting of finance chiefs from the Group of Seven nations on Thursday to discuss their response to Russia's war in Ukraine, including sanctions, on the fringes of a broader Group of 20 gathering in India.Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki told reporters that he will chair the meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors as Japan holds the G-7 presidency this year."We'd like to reaffirm G-7 solidarity in supporting Ukraine and maintaining our pressure on Russia and discuss the impact (of the war) on the global economy," Suzuki told reporters after a Cabinet meeting, according to Japan's News Agency (Kyodo).This meeting comes ahead of the one-year anniversary of the start of the war in Ukraine that has led to a slew of sanctions on Moscow imposed by the member states of the G-7 groups Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and the United States plus the European Union.Suzuki will travel to Bengaluru in southern India to meet with his G-20 counterparts who will hold substantive talks on Friday.
South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin said Pyongyang will face "more severe sanctions" by the international community following a trilateral meeting with his US and Japanese counterparts Antony Blinken and Yoshimasa Hayashi respectively in Munich, Germany."North Korea once again has launched a ballistic missile - this one apparently falling in the exclusive economic zone of Japan," Blinken told a joint press conference."We call on others to condemn this action, to take appropriate steps, including the effective enforcement of sanctions, and countries that have influence with North Korea should use it to try to move it from the course that it's been on now for the last couple of years," Blinken added.The Japanese foreign minister said the three countries, along with other Group of 7 countries, have agreed to "take a robust response, including at the UN Security Council."North Korea fired a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) early Saturday (Korea time), marking its first ICBM launch since November.
A missile that is believed to have landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone on Saturday was intercontinental ballistic missile-class, the government in Tokyo said.North Korea "fired one ICBM-class ballistic missile toward the east. It flew for about 66 minutes," chief government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.He said the missile flew an estimated 900 kilometres (560 miles), reaching a maximum altitude of 5,700 kilometres, and is believed to have landed at 6:27 pm (0927 GMT).
Twelve years after a nuclear catastrophe triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami, workers at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in northeast Japan are preparing to release treated wastewater into the sea.Operator TEPCO says the water has been filtered to remove most radioactive elements, and calls the release both safe and necessary, but there has been domestic and international opposition.Why does the water need to be released?The site produces 100,000 litres (3,500 cubic feet) of contaminated water daily. It is a combination of groundwater, rainwater that seeps into the area, and water used for cooling.The water is filtered to remove most radionuclides, and more than 1.32 million tonnes of treated water was being stored at the site as of February.That accounts for 96 percent of storage capacity, so TEPCO is keen to start releasing the water soon.Under a plan approved by the central government, the process is expected to begin this spring or summer.Is it safe?TEPCO says several filtering systems, including in its ALPS facility, remove most of the 62 radioactive elements in the water, including caesium and strontium, but tritium remains.Experts say tritium is only harmful to humans in large doses, and TEPCO plans to dilute the water to reduce radioactivity levels to 1,500 becquerels per litre, far below the national safety standard of 60,000 becquerels per litre.The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said the release meets international standards and "will not cause any harm to the environment".Neighbouring countries, including China and South Korea, along with activist groups such as Greenpeace and some local residents are strongly opposed to the release.Local fishermen fear the release would once again make consumers wary of buying their catch."We have suffered reputational damage since the disaster, and we will go through that all over again, starting from zero," fisherman Masahiro Ishibashi, 43, told AFP.How will the water be released?The operator is constructing more filtering facilities on the shore and a kilometre-long (0.6-mile) underwater pipe to release treated water over several decades."We don't plan to release the water all in one go, it will be a maximum of 500 tonnes a day of the total 1.37 million tonnes of ALPS-treated water," TEPCO official Kenichi Takahara told AFP."It will take 30 to 40 years, the time required for decommissioning the plant."The operator will cap the amount of radioactivity from tritium discharged at 22 trillion becquerels per year, the national annual standard for wastewater releases before the accident.What has the reaction been?Japanese diplomats have been briefing nearby countries on the plan, and TEPCO is meeting local residents in a bid to win support.Their latest project involves keeping fish in the treated water."Fish kept in the ALPS-treated water... do ingest tritium, to some extent. But once the animal is transferred to normal seawater, the level of tritium in the fish quickly lowers," said Kazuo Yamanaka, in charge of the trials.He keeps hundreds of flatfish and other sea creatures in several tanks at the plant, half with ordinary seawater and the other in treated wastewater, diluted to around the same level as the liquid that will be discharged.He runs a live stream of the fish on YouTube, and plans to expand the trials to seaweed."When we spoke with local residents, they said they wanted to see fish living healthily in the ALPS-treated water," he said."They said they would feel more reassured when they saw it, rather than just seeing data and numbers."It remains unclear if TEPCO's efforts can win over fishing communities that are still struggling to recover from the disaster."I don't think the fisheries of Fukushima will truly recover until the day the nuclear plant shuts down," Ishibashi said.
An earthquake measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale struck Monday off the coast of Fukushima, Japan.The epicentre was off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture, at a depth of 60 km, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.There have been no reports so far of human or material losses due to the earthquake.Japan is located at the meeting point of four tectonic plates, which makes it particularly vulnerable to seismic activity, and is also home to 100 active volcanoes.An earthquake in 2011, with a magnitude of nine on the Richter scale, and a tsunami, killed more than 15,000 people, and caused a disaster at the Japanese Fukushima nuclear plant.
Two people have died as a result of a landslide that occurred in Yamagata Prefecture in northeastern Japan, Japanese authorities said on Monday.Tsuruoka city officials in the prefecture said that the two bodies, who were reported missing in the landslide that hit the city on Saturday, have been found, NHK reported.The landslide damaged 10 buildings.According to the provincial meteorological office, the city experienced a record amount of rain and snow.The Japanese authorities had warned earlier of increasing snowfall in large areas of the country.
Japan on Wednesday recorded 415 Covid-19 deaths, the highest-ever count for a single day, health ministry data showed.The country counted 216,219 newly confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday, up 4% from a week earlier, the data also showed, approaching the record high of some 260,000 a day in August.In the past seven days, Japan had the world's largest confirmed Covid-19 infections and the second-most deaths after the United States, according to a tally by the World Health Organization.