Fukushima officials call for Japanese gov't to protect reputation amid radioactive water release concerns

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TOKYO, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- The mayors of two towns hosting the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Wednesday urged the central government to take steps to protect the reputation of the region's marine products amid plans to release radioactive wastewater from the plant into the Pacific Ocean.

The request was made by Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori and Okuma Mayor Jun Yoshida to Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda.

"The plan has not earned enough understanding from Japanese people and residents of the prefecture, as there are still various opinions including concerns over renewed reputational damage," Uchibori told Hagiuda during talks in Tokyo.

Yoshida, fearing that the already maligned region will once again have its reputation damaged by harmful rumors, also urged the central government to take steps to prevent damage to the northeast region's reputation.

"We hope people in the disaster-stricken area will no longer suffer from reputational damage," Yoshida said.

The petition hand-given to Hagiuda emphasized that the contentious plan to release radioactive wastewater from the plant is "not only a problem for Fukushima Prefecture but for all Japan."

For the fisheries industry that faces the risk of damage caused by harmful rumors, it is important to create an environment where their products are traded at fair prices so young people can continue to operate their businesses without worries, it also read.

While Yoshida and Shiro Izawa, the mayor of the town of Futaba also in Fukushima Prefecture, consented a day earlier to the nuclear plant's operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO) constructing facilities for discharging the tainted water into the sea, serious concerns remain.

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.

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 1 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 just over a decade ago, resulting in the worst nuclear crisis since the Chernobyl disaster 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.

After Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) approved TEPCO's draft plan in May, opinions from the public were supposed to be sought.

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.

Residents took to the streets in Tokyo last month to voice their objections when the controversial plan was approved, echoing concerns from the international community, including Japan's closest neighbors, over radioactive wastewater being discharged into the Pacific Ocean. Enditem

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