Japan Scraps Mascot Promoting Fukushima Wastewater Dump

The Japanese government has been forced to quickly retire an animated character it had hoped would win support for its decision this week to release more than 1m tonnes of contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the sea. From a report: Although the water will be treated before being discharged, it will still contain tritium, a radioactive hydrogen isotope represented on a government website by a cute fish-like creature with rosy cheeks. The character’s appearance in an online flyer and video on the reconstruction agency’s website angered Fukushima residents. “It seems the government’s desire to release the water into the sea takes priority over everything,” Katsuo Watanabe, an 82-year-old Fukushima fisher, told the Kyodo news agency. “The gap between the gravity of the problems we face and the levity of the character is huge.”

Riken Komatsu, a local writer, tweeted: “If the government thinks it can get the general public to understand just by creating a cute character, it is making a mockery of risk communication.” Social media users named the character Tritium-kun — or Little Mr Tritium — an apparent reference to Pluto-kun, who appeared in the mid-1990s to soften the image of plutonium on behalf of Japan’s nuclear industry. The reconstruction agency, which oversees recovery efforts in the region destroyed by the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown, removed the promotional material on Wednesday, a day after it first appeared. Experts say tritium is harmful to humans only in large doses, and that with dilution the treated water poses no scientifically detectable risk.