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China has asked Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso to drink radioactive water after he said it was safe to consume.
Earlier this week, Japan announced that it will release more than one million tonnes of water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean.
The water will be treated and diluted prior to release so that radiation levels are below those set for drinking water.
The decision has faced backlash from Japan’s neighbours, with China’s foreign ministry calling the move ‘extremely irresponsible’ and one that will ‘seriously damage international public health and safety, and the vital interests of people in neighbouring countries’.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, April 13, Aso said, ‘I have heard that we will have no harm if we drink [the water].’
As per The Mainichi, in response to his comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian asked the deputy prime minister to drink the water himself.
‘A Japanese official said it is okay if we drink this water, so then please drink it,’ he told reporters.
He urged the government to reconsider its decision, warning that Japan’s Minamata disease happened not long ago ‘and the pain of the local victims is yet to be healed’.
‘Japan should not forget the historical tragedy,’ he added.
Minamata disease is a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning. Between 1932 and 1968, Chisso Corporation, a chemical factory, released large amounts of mercury-tainted water into the sea.
The disease, which affected thousands of lives, was formally acknowledged by the Japanese government in 1968.
‘To safeguard international public interests and Chinese people’s health and safety, China has expressed grave concern to the Japanese side through the diplomatic channel,’ Zhao said.
In October 2020, Greenpeace warned Japan’s government that the contaminated water contains a radioactive substance that could change human DNA.
In a report, Stemming the tide 2020: The reality of the Fukushima radioactive water crisis, Greenpeace alleged the water contains ‘dangerous levels of carbon-14, that has the ‘potential to damage human DNA’.
However, the plan has been backed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which says the disposal of wastewater is already happening around the world.
‘Releasing into the ocean is done elsewhere. It’s not something new. There is no scandal here,’ IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi said, as per the BBC.
Scientists told the BBC that the traces of elements remaining in the water will only be harmful to humans in large doses and that with dilution, the risk to humans is scientifically undetectable.
They also noted that more radiation has been released into the Pacific Ocean by tests carried out by the US, UK and France between 1940 and 1960.
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