A government agency in Japan has pulled a mascot of a radioactive tritium isotope a day after its launch, due to criticism over its insensitivity.
This follows Japan's announcement on Apr. 13 that come 2023, it will start releasing over a million tonnes of contaminated radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, into the Pacific Ocean.
This method of disposal was regarded as the "most realistic" option, and the Japanese government determined that the water, which will be treated to remove harmful isotopes, poses no safety concerns.
On Apr. 14, the Reconstruction Agency — which is in charge of the reconstruction process following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster — released a brochure and video featuring the anthropomorphic mascot.
The video reassured citizens that water containing tritium poses little health risks, and that it is safe to drink.
It also explained that releasing water containing tritium into the ocean is standard practice for nuclear plants around the world.
復興庁が原発の処理水に含まれる放射性物質の安全性をPRする目的で作成した動画。— にゃん吉 (@NYANKICHI_Earth) April 14, 2021
Video suspended after public feedback
However, the materials featuring the tritium isotope were removed from the agency's website after backlash by local residents, reported NHK World.
Local fishermen told Kyodo News that it appears that the "government's desire to release the water into the sea takes priority over everything."
A local writer involved in reconstruction activities said that creating a cutesy-looking character such as this was "making a mockery of risk communication".
Online backlash was also swift, with one Twitter user stating that the campaign "makes the people a little idiot [sic]".
On its website, the Reconstruction Agency stated that it would be reviewing the design of the tritium mascot, and have temporarily suspended the release of the both the video and the brochure.
Local fishermen in Japan have disagreed with the plan to release the wastewater, worrying that consumers will refuse to buy produce from them.
Environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, have also opposed releasing the water into the sea, claiming that the water could damage human DNA.
Top photo from NYANKICHI_Earth / Twitter