By Yuka Obayashi and Kaori Kaneko
Tokyo (Reuters) – Nearly a decade after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Japanese government has decided to release more than a million tons of polluted water into the sea, media reported on Friday, with an official announcement expected later this month.
The decision is expected to boost neighboring countries such as South Korea, which has already stepped up radiation testing of Japanese food, and further devastate the Fukushima fishing industry, which has been battling such a move for years.
Disposal of contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi plant is a long-standing problem for Japan, as it continues with a decade-long decommissioning project. Currently, nearly 1
The plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. <9501.T>, suffered multiple nuclear accidents after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
On Friday, Japanese Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said no decision had yet been made on the water disposal, but the government was working quickly to make such a decision.
“To prevent delays in the decommissioning process, we need to make a decision quickly,” he told a news conference.
He did not give more details, including time frames.
Asahi reports that each such release is expected to take about two years to prepare, as the irradiated water on site must first go through a filtration process before it can be further diluted with seawater and finally released into the ocean. .
In 2018, Tokyo Electric apologized after admitting that its filtration systems did not remove all hazardous materials from the water collected from the cooling pipes used to protect fuel cores from melting when the plant was crippled.
He said he planned to remove all radioactive particles from the water, except tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that is difficult to separate and is considered relatively harmless.
It is common practice for nuclear power plants around the world to release water that contains traces of tritium into the ocean.
In April, a team sent by the International Atomic Energy Agency to review the problems of polluted water at the Fukushima site said that the water disposal options outlined by the Japan Advisory Committee – Release of Money and Release into the Sea – were technically feasible . The IAEA said both options have been used by operating nuclear power plants.
Last week, representatives of the Japanese fishing industry called on the government not to allow the discharge of contaminated water from the Fukushima plant into the sea, saying it would take years of work to restore their reputation.
South Korea has maintained a post-nuclear ban on seafood imports from the Fukushima area and called on a senior Japanese embassy official last year to explain how Tokyo plans to tackle the Fukushima water problem.
During Tokyo’s bid to host the 2013 Olympics, then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told members of the International Olympic Committee that the Fukushima facility was “under control.”
The games have been postponed until 2021 due to the pandemic and some events have to take place 60 km (35 miles) from the destroyed plant.
(Report by Kaori Kaneko, Yuka Obayashi and Mari Saito; Edited by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Raju Gopalakrishnan)