“If South Korea or China announced the same thing, I’m sure that the Japanese government and the vast majority of the Japanese people would also object,” she said.

Governments in the region most likely feel domestic pressure to take a strong stance, said Eunjung Lim, an associate professor of international relations at Kongju National University in Gongju, South Korea, who specializes in Japan and South Korea.

Whether their worries are rational or not, many people in the region “are going to be very, very anxious about what would happen if this radioactive material came into our near seas and contaminated our resources,” she said.

Even under the best of circumstances, Japan would find it “really difficult to persuade its neighbors to accept this kind of decision, because obviously, it’s not our fault. It’s Japan’s fault, so why do we have to experience this kind of difficulty?” she added.

Regional tensions have made surrounding countries even less receptive to the plan. In recent years, territorial disputes and disagreements over trade and historical issues related to World War II have strained Japan’s relations with China and South Korea, with spillover effects on government dialogues across a broad range of issues.

China warned Japan on Tuesday against taking any decision without further consultation with the international community, saying that it “reserved the right to take further action.”

In its statement, South Korea accused Japan of taking “unilateral action” without seeking consultation and understanding with South Korea, which “lies closest to Japan.”

Some in Japan believe that such complaints should be met with more than scientific arguments. Shunichi Tanaka, a former chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said that the criticism smacked of hypocrisy.

South Korea itself operates four heavy-water reactors that routinely discharge water containing tritium at higher levels than those planned in Fukushima, he said in a recent interview.

“When South Korea makes claims like this, we shouldn’t be quiet, we need to properly refute them,” he said.

But the challenge Japan faces is not just on the global stage. At home, many are reluctant to trust the government or Tepco, the nuclear plant’s operator.

A parliamentary commission found that the meltdowns had been the result of a lack of oversight and of collusion between the government, the plant’s owner and regulators. And Tepco was forced to retract assertions that it had treated most of the wastewater. In fact, it had completely processed only about one-fifth, a problem that arose from a failure to change filters in the decontamination system frequently enough.

Ultimately, Japan is in a battle to alter perceptions, whether of the trustworthiness of its own government or of the risk posed by the treated water, said Hirohiko Fukushima, a professor at Chuo Gakuin University specializing in local governance issues.

In Fukushima, the government’s response to local concerns has often come across as highhanded, he said. Changing that view will require the authorities to improve transparency around their decisions and build new relationships, he said.

“From my perspective,” he added, “it’s probably difficult for Japan to convince foreign countries when it can’t even convince its own people.”

Choe Sang-Hun contributed reporting from Seoul. Albee Zhang contributed research from Shanghai.

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Japan to Start Releasing Radioactive Water From Fukushima in 2 Years

Japan said on Tuesday that it had decided to gradually release tons of treated wastewater from the ruined Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the ocean, describing it as the best option for disposal despite fierce opposition from fishing crews at home and concern from governments abroad.

The plan to release the water in two years was approved during a cabinet meeting of ministers early Tuesday.

Disposal of the wastewater has been long delayed by public opposition and by safety concerns. But the space used to store the water is expected to run out next year, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told lawmakers on Monday that the ocean release was “unavoidable” and could no longer be postponed.

The Fukushima crisis was set off in March 2011 by a huge earthquake and tsunami that ripped through northeastern Japan and killed more than 19,000 people. The subsequent meltdown of three of the plant’s six reactors was the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Tens of thousands of people fled the area around the plant or were evacuated, in many cases never to return.

Ten years later, the cleanup is far from finished at the disabled plant, which is operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Company. To keep the three damaged reactor cores from melting, cooling water is pumped through them continuously. The water is then sent through a powerful filtration system that is able to remove all of the radioactive material except for tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that experts say is not harmful to human health in small doses.

said last year that both options were “technically feasible.” Nuclear power plants around the world routinely discharge treated wastewater containing tritium into the sea.

But the Japanese government’s plan faces strong opposition from local officials and fishing crews, who say that it would add to consumer fears about the safety of Fukushima seafood. Catch levels in the area are already a small fraction of what they were before the disaster.

expressed concerns.

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Biden Details $1.52 Trillion Spending Proposal to Fund Discretionary Priorities

WASHINGTON — President Biden outlined a vast expansion of federal spending on Friday, calling for a 16 percent increase in domestic programs as he tries to harness the government’s power to reverse what officials called a decade of underinvestment in the nation’s most pressing issues.

The proposed $1.52 trillion in spending on discretionary programs would significantly bolster education, health research and fighting climate change. It comes on top of Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package and a separate plan to spend $2.3 trillion on the nation’s infrastructure.

Mr. Biden’s first spending proposal to Congress showcases his belief that expanding, not shrinking, the federal government is crucial to economic growth and prosperity. It would direct billions of dollars toward reducing inequities in housing and education, as well as making sure every government agency puts climate change at the front of its agenda.

It does not include tax proposals, economic projections or so-called mandatory programs like Social Security, which will all be included in a formal budget document the White House will release this spring. And it does not reflect the spending called for in Mr. Biden’s infrastructure plan or other efforts he has yet to roll out, which are aimed at workers and families.

Trump administration’s efforts to gut domestic programs.

But Mr. Biden’s plan, while incomplete as a budget, could provide a blueprint for Democrats who narrowly control the House and Senate and are anxious to reassert their spending priorities after four years of a Republican White House.

Democratic leaders in Congress hailed the plan on Friday and suggested they would incorporate it into government spending bills for the 2022 fiscal year. The plan “proposes long overdue and historic investments in jobs, worker training, schools, food security, infrastructure and housing,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

Shalanda D. Young, who is serving as Mr. Biden’s acting budget director, told congressional leaders that the discretionary spending process would be an “important opportunity to continue laying a stronger foundation for the future and reversing a legacy of chronic disinvestment in crucial priorities.”

The administration is focusing on education spending in particular, seeing that as a way to help children escape poverty. Mr. Biden asked Congress to bolster funding to high-poverty schools by $20 billion, which it describes as the largest year-over-year increase to the Title I program since its inception under President Lyndon B. Johnson. The program provides funding for schools that have high numbers of students from low-income families, most often by providing remedial programs and support staff.

The plan also seeks billions of dollars in increases to early-childhood education, to programs serving students with disabilities and to efforts to staff schools with nurses, counselors and mental health professionals — described as an attempt to help children recover from the pandemic, but also a longstanding priority for teachers’ unions.

Mr. Biden heralded the education funding in remarks to reporters at the White House. “The data shows that it puts a child from a household that is a lower-income household in a position if they start school — not day care — but school at 3 and 4 years old, there’s overwhelming evidence that they will compete all the way through high school and beyond,” he said.

There is no talk in the plans of tying federal dollars to accountability measures for teachers and schools, as they often were under President Barack Obama.

his vision of having every cabinet chief, whether they are military leaders, diplomats, fiscal regulators or federal housing planners, charged with incorporating climate change into their missions.

The proposal aims to embed climate programs into agencies that are not usually seen as at the forefront of tackling global warming, like the Agriculture and Labor Departments. That money would be in addition to clean energy spending in Mr. Biden’s proposed infrastructure legislation, which would pour about $500 billion on programs such as increasing electric vehicle production and building climate-resilient roads and bridges.

Strategic National Stockpile, the country’s emergency medical reserve, for supplies and efforts to restructure it that began last year. Nearly $7 billion would create an agency meant to research diseases like cancer and diabetes.

Reporting was contributed by Coral Davenport, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Lisa Friedman, Brad Plumer, Christopher Flavelle, Mark Walker, Dana Goldstein, Mark Walker, Noah Weiland, Margot Sanger-Katz, Lara Jakes, Noam Scheiber, Katie Benner and Emily Cochrane.

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Why Investing in Fossil Fuels Is So Tricky

As concerns about climate change push the world economy toward a lower-carbon future, investing in oil may seem a risky bet. For the long term, that may be true.

Yet for the moment, at least, oil and gas prices appear likely to continue to rise as the economy recovers from the pandemic-driven shutdown of millions of businesses, big and small.

These countervailing trends — increasing demand now and falling demand at some point, perhaps in the not-too-distant future — create a dilemma for investors.

The good news is that an array of traditional mutual funds and exchange-traded funds are available to help them navigate these uncertain waters. Some funds focus on slices of the industry, such as extracting crude oil and gas from the ground or delivering refined products to consumers. Others focus on so-called integrated companies that do it all. Some spice their holdings with some exposure to wind, solar or other alternative energy sources.

International Energy Agency forecast that oil consumption was not likely to return to prepandemic levels in developed economies.

“World oil markets are rebalancing after the Covid-19 crisis spurred an unprecedented collapse in demand in 2020, but they may never return to ‘normal,’” the I.E.A. said in its “Oil 2021” report. “Rapid changes in behavior from the pandemic and a stronger drive by governments toward a low-carbon future have caused a dramatic downward shift in expectations for oil demand over the next six years.”

alternative energy funds. Many enable investors to zero in on discrete segments of the industry.

The biggest holdings of the Invesco WilderHill Clean Energy E.T.F. are producers of raw materials for solar cells and rechargeable batteries or builders and operators of large-scale solar projects. The $2.9 billion fund yields 0.49 percent and has an expense ratio of 0.7 percent.

The First Trust NASDAQ Clean Edge Green Energy Index Fund focuses on applied green technology. Its biggest holdings are Tesla, the American maker of electric automobiles; NIO, a Chinese rival in that field; and Plug Power, which makes hydrogen fuel cells for vehicles. Also a $2.9 billion fund, it yields 0.24 percent and has an expense ratio of 0.6 percent.

The First Trust Global Wind Energy E.T.F., as its name suggests, targets wind turbine manufacturers and servicers, led by the Spanish-German joint venture Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and Vestas Wind Systems of Denmark, as well as operators such as Northland Power of Canada. This $423 million fund yields 0.92 percent and has an expense ratio of 0.61 percent.


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North Korea’s Arsenal Has Grown Rapidly. Here’s What’s in It.

SEOUL — North Korea test-launched what it called a newly developed tactical guided missile ​on Thursday, violating international sanctions.

It was the country’s first ballistic missile test in a year and its first provocation to the Biden administration, prompting the​ American president to warn that there will be “responses” if North Korea continues to escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The United States has tried both sanctions and dialogue to persuade North Korea to ​give up its ​nuclear ​weapons programs.

Neither has worked.

Instead, North Korea​ has rapidly expanded its nuclear program and modernized its missile fleet under Kim Jong-un, the country’s young leader. The expansion of the arsenal is a growing threat to the United States and allies​ in the region. ​Here’s what’s in it.

last and most powerful nuclear test was conducted in September 2017, when North Korea claimed to have detonated ​a thermonuclear​, or hydrogen, bomb. ​Estimates of the device’s explosive power ranged from 50 to 300 kilotons.

Arms Control Association.

Although the world is preoccupied with the North’s nuclear weapons, the country has also stockpiled thousands of tons of chemical and biological​ weapons​ ​agents​ that it can deliver with its missiles​​. When Mr. Kim’s estranged half brother, Kim Jong-nam, was assassinated in Kuala Lumpur in 2017, North Korea ​used the internationally banned VX nerve agent in the operation.

In 2017, North Korea made big strides in its weapons capabilities.

That year, the country fired its intermediate-range ballistic missile, Hwasong-12, over Japan and threatened an “enveloping” strike around the American territory of Guam. It also test-fired Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15, the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles.

By the end of the year, Mr. Kim claimed that his country had the ability to launch a nuclear strike against the continental United States.

threatened to end his moratorium when talks with President Donald J. Trump collapsed in 2019.

During a nighttime military parade last October, North Korea displayed a new, untested I.C.B.M. that looked bigger than any of the previous ones.

party congress in January, Mr. Kim doubled down on his nuclear arms buildup, offering a laundry list of weapons he said he planned to develop. They included “multi-warhead” nuclear missiles, “hypersonic” missiles, land- and submarine-launched I.C.B.M.s that use solid fuel, and “ultramodern tactical nuclear weapons.”

Whether North Korea has mastered the technology needed to send an intercontinental nuclear warhead into space and then guide it back through the earth’s atmosphere to its target is still unclear. North Korea has yet to demonstrate that its warhead can survive the intense heat and friction created by re-entry.

When North Korea resumed missile tests in 2019 following the collapse of the Kim-Trump talks, the tests featured three new weapons, code-named KN-23, KN-24 and KN-25 by outside experts.

They each marked big advances in North Korea’s short-range ballistic missile program.

Unlike its older missiles that used liquid fuel, all three of the new missiles used solid fuel. The new solid-fuel weapons, mounted on mobile launchers, are easier to transport and hide and take less time to prepare. And at least two of them, KN-23 and KN-24, could perform low-altitude maneuvers, making them harder to intercept.

At a military parade earlier this year, North Korea displayed what looked like a bigger, upgraded version of KN-23. Photos released by the North Korean media indicate that was the weapon tested on Thursday.

The new missile was developed to be larger than KN-23 in order to carry a bigger warhead and more fuel.

Pukguksong submarine-launched ballistic missiles since 2015.

During the military parades held in October and earlier this year, North Korea displayed what looked like two upgraded versions of its Pukguksong submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The country currently has only one submarine that can launch a ballistic missile, but says it is building a new one with greater capabilities.

North Korea has one of the largest standing armies in the world, with more than one million soldiers. But much of its equipment is old and obsolete, and the military lacks fuel and spare parts.

North Korea has sought to make up for its shortcomings by building nuclear weapons.

Mr. Kim justifies his family’s dynastic rule of North Korea by saying that the nuclear arsenal his government has built was a “treasure sword” keeping North Koreans safe from foreign invasion. He tells his people that they are under the constant threat of an American attack.

At the January party congress, Mr. Kim said that his weapons program “never precludes diplomacy” but “guarantees its success.” He has also said he no longer holds any expectations for dialogue unless Washington makes an offer that satisfies his government.

The test this week reflected Mr. Kim’s determination, analysts said.

It showed that “North Korea was pushing ahead with the plans” set down by Mr. Kim during the party meeting, said Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. “As it had stated before, North Korea had no intention of moving first to offer a concession or make a proposal.”

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How to Clean Up Steel? Bacteria, Hydrogen and a Lot of Cash.

Few materials are more essential than steel, yet steel mills are among the leading polluters. They burn coke, a derivative of coal, and belch millions of tons of greenhouse gases. Roughly two tons of carbon dioxide rises into the atmosphere for every ton of steel made using blast furnaces.

With climate concerns growing, a crunch appears inevitable for these companies. Carbon taxes are rising, and investors are wary of putting their money into businesses that could be regulated out of existence.

None of this has been lost on the giant steel maker ArcelorMittal.

For half a century, Lakshmi Mittal devoted himself to building and running what became the world’s largest empire of huge steel mills, employing nearly 170,000 people.

Now his son, Aditya Mittal, 44, who recently succeeded his father as chief executive, says the industry that has made the family’s name and fortune needs to change its polluting ways.

Europe’s carbon trading program and other measures will rise rapidly in the coming years, cutting into steel makers’ already slim profits.

“Everyone expects the regulations to be imposed to be very strict,” said Akio Ito, a senior partner at the consultants Roland Berger in Munich.

Mr. Ito said that in a few years, the carbon tariff might increase to as much as €150 per ton of steel, around 20 percent of the current price of a ton of the metal. If so, it could become too costly to make steel in Europe, he said.

In 2019, ArcelorMittal’s global operations made 90 million metric tons of steel, about 5 percent of the world total, while producing 185 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Mr. Mittal is moving cautiously, trying several approaches. The company’s flagship mill near Ghent in Belgium is central to this effort. In one of several experiments, workers are erecting large tanks where bacteria will feast on carbon dioxide from plant exhaust and turn it into ethanol, which can then be used in making chemicals. At another plant, in Hamburg, Germany, the staff has run laboratory tests using hydrogen, which is gaining favor as a clean fuel in place of coke. Mr. Mittal is also contemplating hooking up the company’s electric furnaces, which are cleaner than blast furnaces, to a source of renewable power to produce steel branded as low-carbon.

Executives indicate that using hydrogen may eventually be the best solution but is many years away. Hydrogen made without causing emissions is expensive and limited.

“Today, this is impossible, because there is no hydrogen,” said Geert Van Poelvoorde, chief executive of ArcelorMittal Europe.

ArcelorMittal says up to €40 billion of investment will be needed over the next three decades to remove the emissions from steel making in Europe alone, depending on the methods. The cost of producing steel will also rise sharply.

At least one European steel company, SSAB of Sweden, may be making progress. With government backing, the company plans to eliminate fossil fuels by using hydrogen made from electricity generated by water power. If all goes well, a large-scale plant could begin operating in around five years.

“In the beginning, it might cost some more, said Martin Pei, the company’s chief technology officer. He added that the company would gain a new product that it could sell for a premium.

ArcelorMittal is a giant in the industry, but even it cannot afford to throw money around. For 2020, when economies were shut down because of the pandemic, the company reported a $733 million net loss. It has been concerned about debt, and last year sold much of its business in the United States.

How to pay for reducing emissions is the subject of complex negotiations between the industry and governments, including the European Union. Governments may want to clean up steel, but they also will be wary of jeopardizing an industry that employs about 330,000 people in the region. In addition, if European steel moves elsewhere, the likely result would be higher emissions.

ArcelorMittal and other companies are applying for funding from European programs for their efforts to reduce carbon. The steel industry is also pressing for what it calls border adjustments, which would levy tariffs on steel imports from countries with fewer environmental regulations — an approach that risks trade friction and could leave European steel less competitive in export markets.

Without financial support from governments, Mr. Mittal said, “the incentive to produce steel in Europe would not exist.”

By 2030, Mr. Mittal wants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in Europe by 30 percent compared with 2018; he hopes the whole company will be carbon-neutral by 2050. In the meantime, the company is trying to cater to growing customer demand for low-carbon steel by making modest investments, like using natural gas in place of coke at a plant and then selling an amount of steel equivalent to the carbon saved as “green steel.”

An early customer for this niche product, which differs from ordinary steel only in labeling, is Jean-Christophe Vigouroux, chief executive of Ateliers 3S, a supplier of custom roof material and facades in Clermont-Ferrand, France. In an interview, Mr. Vigouroux said he had ordered 1,000 tons of green steel at a roughly 10 percent premium over the market price.

“Clients increasingly appreciate the eco-design aspects of our products,” Mr. Vigouroux said.

Mr. van Poelvoorde said that being able to sell the material at a premium was a pleasant surprise that would help finance lower emissions. More important, he said, offering a product labeled green shows customers and the authorities, who are considering funding these efforts, “we are very serious, that it is not only talking.”

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