Japan eyeing new fund for fishers over Fukushima water release

Jiji Press
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, front left, speaks regarding the release of treated water from TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, at the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The government is considering establishing an additional fund to support fishers over the planned release into the ocean of treated radioactive water from the disaster-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan.

At a meeting of related ministers Tuesday, the government revised its action plan on measures to fight reputational damage and on compensation over the water issue.

As part of efforts to win understanding from fishers who strongly oppose the planned discharge of the water from the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, the action plan newly stipulates that the government will “introduce measures continuously to realize sustainable fishing operations through the use of a fund.”

The new fund will come on top of a ¥30 billion fund that the government set up under its fiscal 2021 supplementary budget to finance emergency measures, such as purchasing fishery products whose prices have fallen sharply due to radiation-related reputational damage.

“We’ll thoroughly check the safety [related to the water release] and work to ensure that fishers can continue their operations while feeling safe and that products from disaster-hit areas will be traded continuously,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at the meeting.

Industry minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told a press conference Tuesday that his ministry will work on establishing a new fund.

The government is expected to come up with new measures such as financial support for dealing with rising fuel and other costs, apparently in response to a call from the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations for the creation of a mega fund to help fishers keep operating with a sense of security in the future.

A triple meltdown occurred at the Fukushima No. 1 plant following a huge earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. The treated water still includes tritium, a radioactive substance.

The government and TEPCO plan to release the treated water into the sea about 1 kilometer off the coast after diluting it with seawater to lower the tritium level to less than one-40th of the government-set safety standards.

While aiming to start the release around spring 2023, they have promised fishers that they “will not carry out any operations to dispose of the water without gaining understanding from parties concerned.”

The revised action plan also calls on the government to instruct TEPCO to draw up compensation standards for each region and industry by year-end so that payments would be made swiftly in the event reputational damage occurs.