- A tweet published Apr. 13, 2021, claimed that Japan’s Reconstruction Agency (the Agency) had created a mascot to promote the safety of treated nuclear wastewater. The original tweet and its retweet showed an illustrated character and a headline claiming tritium – a radioactive isotope of hydrogen – in treated wastewater would not be harmful to people.
- NHK and The Guardian reported the creation of the mascot, which was publicly released Apr. 13, 2021. It was withdrawn a day later due to widespread controversy and online criticism. The original link to the mascot on the Agency’s website is no longer available.
- We rate the claim as TRUE.
The Japanese government decided on Apr. 13, 2021, to discharge contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean. The government said cooling-water storage tanks around the Fukushima plant would be full by the summer of 2022. Therefore, after “careful consideration and assessment” the government decided to release the treated radioactive water into the ocean. The government said it will implement an advanced liquid processing system (ALPS) to remove most of the radioactive materials from the contaminated water, leaving behind tritium. The government claimed tritium – a radioactive isotope of hydrogen – was only harmful to people in large doses, and therefore the treated water from Fukushima would pose no health risk to humans.
Twitter user “biantiberium” tweeted on Apr. 13, 2021, that Japan’s Reconstruction Agency (the Agency) had created an illustrated character representing “tritium” to promote the safety of treated radioactive water. An illustration of the mascot was attached to the tweet. In a retweet, the user posted the original link of promotional materials about the mascot from the official website of the Agency, and two more illustrations of the mascot.
As of the issuance of this report, the tweet had been retweeted 24 times, received 9 comments and 31 likes.
The claim questions: Did the Japanese government design a mascot to promote the safety of treated ‘radioactive wastewater’?
A retweet of the original tweet contained a link to the web page of the Agency announcing the planned release of the wastewater and the illustration of the mascot. The web page is no longer available now. Using the Wayback Machine, a digital archive of the World Wide Web, the original web page was retrieved. The page contained a video and illustration of a green fish-like creature with three tentacles on its head representing the nucleic structure of a tritium atom. A caption for the illustration reads, “No need to worry about the effects of tritium on human health.” Text on the web page reads, “Tritium does not accumulate in the human body, but will be excreted with water” and “it cannot pass through the skin.”
According to the website, Japan’s Reconstruction Agency was established in February 2012, and it is Japan’s principal agency in charge of reconstruction, following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami off Japan’s Pacific coast.
NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, published on its website an English-language article about the mascot. The article reported that the mascot was created “to share information about the safety of treated water in an easy-to-understand way, based on science.” After triggering online criticism and controversy over the illustrated character, the Agency decided to remove a video of the mascot and an information sheet from the website, the article claimed. The article also stated that the Agency would change the design of the mascot in response to the criticism.
The Guardian, a British daily newspaper, also reported the news on Apr. 15, 2021. The Guardian claims that the Agency had removed the promotional materials of the mascot on Apr. 14, one day after it first appeared. “The character was created to explain that the release of tritium into the sea is standard practice at nuclear power plants around the world,” according to the article. “Nuclear power plants are highly specialised and difficult to understand,” an agency official told The Guardian, emphasizing the mascot would be redesigned to take into account public sentiment.
It has been confirmed that Japan’s Reconstruction Agency, which is responsible for reconstruction following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami off Japan’s Pacific coast, did design and release a mascot representing a tritium atom on Apr. 13, 2021. The mascot was designed to convey the message to the public that treated nuclear wastewater is safe for people. However, due to online criticism and controversy, the promotional materials of the mascot were removed on Apr. 14, one day after its public release.
Therefore, we rate the claim as TRUE.
- Tweet, April 13, 2021
- Retweet, April 13, 2021
- Wikipedia: Tritium (Chinese version)
- South China Morning Post, “Japan announces it will release treated radioactive water from Fukushima nuclear plant into sea,” April 13, 2021
- Japan Reconstruction Agency, “Promotional materials of the mascot of tritium,” archived by the Wayback Machine, April 14, 2021
- NHK, “Tritium mascot design to be changed,” April 15, 2021
- The Guardian, “Japan scraps mascot promoting Fukushima wastewater dump,” April 15, 2021