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China criticizes Japan's water-release plan

by The Associated Press | April 29, 2021 at 4:30 a.m.
FILE - In this Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013, file photo, a Japanese Coast Guard boat and vessel sail alongside Japanese activists' fishing boat, not in photo, warning the activists away from a group of disputed islands called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China. Japan on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, said its military has raised caution levels around the Senkaku islands that it controls but are also claimed by Beijing after six Chinese warships passed near the area and a reconnaissance helicopter flew toward it. (AP Photo/Emily Wang, File)

BEIJING -- China on Wednesday renewed its criticism of Japan's decision to release treated radioactive water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian called the decision to begin releasing the water in about two years a money-saving measure that is "extremely irresponsible."

Zhao also rejected Japanese complaints over a tweet he sent earlier that criticized Japan's decision with a picture of a famous Japanese print of a large wave, saying it was hypocritical of Japan not to allow others to criticize when it had failed to consider the concerns of its neighbors.

"Certain Japanese officials have been playing deaf and dumb. Then why are they so angry about this image?" Zhao said at a daily briefing. "The Japanese side should recognize its responsibility, fulfill its international obligations and revoke its wrong decision."

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi on Tuesday said Japan had protested and demanded removal of the tweet. Foreign Ministry spokesman Tomoyuki Yoshida on Wednesday said the tweet lacked scientific basis.

"Contrary to Japan's sincere effort to respond to the international society with high levels of transparency, [the tweet] is not based on any scientific evidence whatsoever, it is one-sided and it incites emotions, and it is extremely regrettable," he said.

Japan's decision had long been anticipated, but it was delayed by safety concerns and protests. Cabinet ministers endorsed it as the best option, though it is fiercely opposed by fishermen, residents and Japan's neighbors. The water has been used to cool melted fuel at the nuclear plant damaged by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, but the tanks where it is being stored will be full next year.

Also on Wednesday, a Japanese utility received local consent to restart three aging nuclear reactors, clearing the final hurdle needed to put them back online and help meet the country's carbon emissions reduction target.

Kansai Electric Power Co. said it received approval from Fukui prefecture, home to the three reactors, Takahama No. 1 and No. 2 and Mihama No. 3, which have all operated more than 40 years.

The approval from Fukui Gov. Tatsuji Sugimoto is the first for aging reactors to operate beyond their 40-year intended life. The Nuclear Regulation Authority has granted each reactor a 20-year extension under toughened safety standards set after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Economy and industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama welcomed the decision, saying it will contribute to a reduction in carbon emissions, since power from the reactors will allow a reduction in the use of fossil fuel-fired plants.

Kansai Electric said it plans to restart the reactors as soon as they are ready, but the timing is uncertain for the Takahama reactors because of delays in installing anti-terrorism measures.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who pledged in October that Japan will achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, recently raised a 2030 carbon emissions reduction target to 46% from 2013 levels, from a previous 26% reduction. Japan is one of the world's top carbon emitters.

Japan's current energy plan, set in 2018, calls for 22%-24% of its energy to come from renewables; 20%-22% from nuclear power; and 56% from fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas.

Information for this article was contributed by Mari Yamaguchi of The Associated Press.

FILE - In this Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013, file photo, a Japanese Coast Guard boat and vessel sail alongside Japanese activists' fishing boat, not in photo, warning the activists away from a group of disputed islands called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China. Japan on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, said its military has raised caution levels around the Senkaku islands that it controls but are also claimed by Beijing after six Chinese warships passed near the area and a reconnaissance helicopter flew toward it. (AP Photo/Emily Wang, File)
FILE - In this Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013, file photo, a Japanese Coast Guard boat and vessel sail alongside Japanese activists' fishing boat, not in photo, warning the activists away from a group of disputed islands called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China. Japan on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, said its military has raised caution levels around the Senkaku islands that it controls but are also claimed by Beijing after six Chinese warships passed near the area and a reconnaissance helicopter flew toward it. (AP Photo/Emily Wang, File)
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