Japan has moved one step closer to executing its controversial plan to dump treated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea.
The country’s Nuclear Regulation Authority endorsed the proposal, paving the way for official approval once the “regulator hears submissions from the public,” Kyodo News reported on Wednesday.
The company operating the plant will also “need to gain consent from municipalities hosting the power complex to start construction of the water discharge facilities,” the report said.
Japan unveiled the plan last year in April, triggering massive criticism from China, South Korea, North Korea, the island nation of Taiwan and international bodies including the UN.
The US, however, has backed the proposal, which came after years of talks on how to get rid of more than 1 million tons of water accumulated at the Fukushima nuclear complex since its meltdown after a massive March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
A team of the International Atomic Energy Agency also visited Japan this February for discussions.
Inside the country, fishery groups have opposed the move, fearing “reputational damage to their industry and consumer fears about the safety of the fish they catch,” read the report.
In a fresh rebuke on Tuesday, China urged Tokyo to “revoke its wrong decision of dumping the nuclear-contaminated water into the sea.”
“So far, the Japanese government has been unable to offer a thorough and convincing explanation on issues ranging from the legitimacy of the ocean discharge option to the reliability of relevant data, the efficacy of the treatment system and the uncertainty of environmental impact,” said Wang Wenbin, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson.
“This is a plain fact the Japanese side cannot sidestep,” he said, calling on Japan to “take seriously the legitimate and reasonable concerns of the international community and the Japanese people.”