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  • Environmental activists fear that dumping the tritium-laced water into the ocean will set a poor example. FILE

    Environmental activists fear that dumping the tritium-laced water into the ocean will set a poor example. FILE | Photo: AFP

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“In the broad scale of things, if they do end up putting the material in the Pacific, it will have minimal effect on an ocean basin scale.”

Approximately 580 barrels of radioactive water is to be released into the Pacific Ocean, according to the head of the company responsible for the Fukushima clean-up operation.

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Residents are displeased with the plan to release 777,000 tons of tainted water, from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant, into the sea.

The water is a radioactive from of hydrogen, called tritium – which was used to cool the nuclear plant's damaged reactors.

Takashi Kawamura, chairman of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) said: “The decision has already been made.” But, Tepco is awaiting the go-ahead from the government. “We cannot keep going if we do not have the support of the state,” Kawamura explained to Japan Times.

Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, who strongly supports releasing the water into the sea has criticized Tepso's indecisiveness. “An operator lacking the will to take the initiative does not have the right to resume operation of nuclear reactors,” he said.

Unlike Tanaka, the local fishermen are against the proposed ocean release, fearing that the negative publicity will affect their livelihoods.

“Releasing (tritium) into the sea will create a new wave of unfounded rumors, making our efforts all for naught,” said Kanji Tachiya, head of a local fishermen's cooperative.

According to NRA chairman Tanaka, the chemical is “so weak in its radioactivity won't penetrate plastic wrapping.”

Tritium reportedly poses little danger to humans unless exposed to high quantities.

Oceanographer at the University of Southampton, Simon Boxall, told the Guardian that: “In the broad scale of things, if they do end up putting the material in the Pacific, it will have minimal effect on an ocean basin scale.”

Environmental activists fear that dumping the tritium-laced water into the ocean will set a poor example.

"They say that it will be safe because the ocean is large so it will be diluted, but that sets a precedent that can be copied, essentially permitting anyone to dump nuclear waste into our seas," Aileen Mioko-Smith of Green Action Japan said.

The clean-up operation from the Fukushima disaster is estimated to cost about $20bn (£14bn).

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