Fukushima nuclear plant begins releasing treated radioactive wastewater into sea

The tsunami-wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant 's operator says it began releasing its first batch of treated radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean on Thursday — a controversial step, but a milestone for Japan's battle with the growing radioactive water stockpile.

In a live video from a control room at the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings showed a staff member turn on a seawater pump with a click of a mouse, marking the beginning of the controversial project that is expected to last for decades.

"Seawater Pump A activated," the main operator said, confirming the release was underway. TEPCO later confirmed that the seawater pump was activated at 1:03 p.m. (0403 GMT), three minutes after the final step began.

TEPCO said an additional wastewater release pump was activated 20 minutes after the first. Plant officials said everything was moving smoothly so far.

Japanese fisher groups have opposed the plan for fear it will further damage to the reputation of their seafood. Groups in China and South Korea have also raised concern, making it a political and diplomatic issue.

But the Japanese government and TEPCO say the water must be released to make room for the plant's decommissioning and to prevent accidental leaks. They say the treatment and dilution will make the wastewater safer than international standards and its environmental impact will be negligibly small.

Tony Hooker, director of the Center for Radiation Research, Education, Innovation at the University of Adelaide, said the water released from the Fukushima plant is safe. "It certainly is well below the World Health Organization drinking water guidelines," he said. "It's safe."

"It's a very political issue of disposing radiation into...

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