TOKYO, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- Japan's industry minister visited the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant Thursday to see the extent of the damage caused by the March 2011 tsunami-triggered nuclear disaster, and assess the complications still facing the plant and its decommissioning efforts.
During his visit, Yasutoshi Nishimura, who received his new ministerial portfolio in a cabinet reshuffle last week, was also scheduled to hold talks with officials from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO), the operator of the plant, and meet with local government officials.
His visit was made amid a myriad of challenges facing the plant including from a controversial plan for radioactive wastewater to be discharged into the Pacific Ocean.
The mayors of two towns hosting the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have urged the central government to take steps to protect the reputation of the region's marine products under the plan to dump radioactive water from the plant into the sea.
Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori believes the contentious plan has not earned enough understanding from the Japanese people and residents of the prefecture, as there are still various opinions including concerns over renewed reputational damage.
Okuma Mayor Jun Yoshida, meanwhile, has voiced concerns that the already maligned region will once again have its reputation damaged, and also urged the central government to take steps to prevent damage to the northeast region's reputation.
Under the plan, the water, which contains hard-to-remove radioactive tritium as a result of being used to cool down melted nuclear fuel at the stricken plant, will be discharged through an underwater tunnel one kilometer off the Pacific coast into the ocean after being treated.
The plant had its key cooling functions knocked out after being battered by a massive earthquake-triggered tsunami over a decade ago, resulting in the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.
The tainted water being stored in tanks at the plant is expected to reach capacity next year and the lengthy process of then dumping the radioactive water into the ocean is projected by TEPCO to take several decades, beginning next spring.
Japan's fisheries industry, for instance, has maintained its ardent opposition to the plan, as it will almost certainly cause further damage to the industry's reputation in the region.
A number of countries and regions continue to impose restrictions on Japanese agricultural and fishery products as a result of the initial Fukushima crisis amid continued concerns about the safety of the produce.
Japan's controversial plan to dump radioactive wastewater into the Pacific ocean has raised concerns from the international community, including from Japan's neighbors, over its impacts on the global marine environment and the public health of Pacific-rim countries. The Japanese side has been asked to earnestly fulfill its due international obligations, dispose of the nuclear-contaminated water in a science-based, open, transparent and safe manner, and stop pushing through the plan to discharge the water into ocean. ■