China is absolutely furious.
Despite significant opposition from its neighboring countries, Japan is about to start releasing contaminated water from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster into the Pacific Ocean later this week.
Enough water to fill 500 Olympic swimming pools has accumulated at the site of the accident, thanks to the plant operator Tepco's efforts to cool the plant's fuel rods, the BBC reports, prompting authorities to find ways to safely dispose of it.
The solution: slowly filtering and diluting the radioactive water over 30 years as it's released into the ocean, something that will keep harmful substances and their impact on wildlife to a minimum, authorities say.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, these plans have garnered plenty of scrutiny. Protesters in Japan, including local fishermen, have long argued that the resulting radiation could hurt ocean ecosystems — though experts, to be fair, say the plan is safe.
Not a Sewer
Japan's neighboring countries have also chimed in, decrying these plans. China, in particular, has responded with anger.
"The ocean sustains humanity," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told the Financial Times. "It is not a sewer for Japan’s nuclear-contaminated water. Japan is putting its selfish interests above the long-term wellbeing of the entire humanity."
South Korea has already banned the import of seafood from the waters surrounding the Fukushima plant.
Last month, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, signed off on the plans, concluding that if released slowly into the ocean, the water would have a "negligible radiological impact to people and the environment."
But it's not entirely without risk. Officials at plant operator Tepco have also since admitted that traces of radioactive isotopes, including tritium and carbon-14, could still be present in the water, as they're extremely difficult to remove.
However, as the BBC notes, other nuclear plants already release wastewater with higher levels of tritium.
"As long as the discharge is carried out as planned, radiation doses to people will be vanishingly small — more than a thousand times less than doses we all get from natural radiation every year," Jim Smith, environmental science professor at the University of Portsmouth, told the BBC.
More on Fukushima: UN Approves Japan's Plan to Dump Fukushima Water Into Pacific Ocean
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