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Pacific News Minute: Island nations fear Fukushima water release could cause 'disaster'

Japan Nuclear Fukushima
Hiro Komae/AP
FILE - This photo shows tanks (in gray, beige and blue) storeing water that was treated but is still radioactive after it was used to cool down spent fuel at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, on Feb. 27, 2021.

Next month will mark 12 years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in northern Japan. The Tokyo government is planning to release treated wastewater from that plant this year — and that's concerning leaders of Pacific Island nations.

The plant has not been in operation since March 2011, when a massive earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, leaving close to 16,000 people dead.

Four reactors at Fukushima were shut down after a meltdown released large amounts of radiation. Water used to cool the damaged reactor cores has been treated and stored in tanks.

More than 1 million tons of radioactive water are still stored at the plant.

Japan’s Cabinet Secretary said the water will be released “around spring or summer this year.”

Pacific leaders have urged Japan to delay the release over fears the discharge may not be safe.

Pacific Islands Forum Secretary-General Henry Puna said at a public meeting in Fiji that “we must prevent action that will lead or mislead us towards another major nuclear contamination disaster at the hands of others.”

Puna says too many Pacific Islanders are still enduring the lingering impacts of American nuclear testing from the 1940s and 1950s.

Some scientists have warned that the impact of long-term, low-dose exposure to radiation on the environment and humans is still unknown.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said it does not have any control over Japan’s planned release of the treated nuclear water into the Pacific.

Derrick Malama is the local anchor of Morning Edition.
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