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 one million tons of contaminated water into the sea, media reported Friday, with a formal announcement scheduled for later this month. .
The decision should anger neighboring countries such as South Korea, which has already stepped up radiation testing of food from Japan, and further devastate the fishing industry in Fukushima that has fought against such a move for years.
Disposing of contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi plant has been a long-standing problem for Japan as it proceeds with a ten-year decommissioning project. Nearly 1
The plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc <9501.T>, suffered several nuclear disasters after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
On Friday, Japan’s Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said no water disposal decision has yet been made, but the government aims to make one quickly.
“To avoid delays in the decommissioning process, we need to make a decision quickly,” he said at a news conference.
He did not provide further details, including a timetable.
The Asahi newspaper reported that such a release is expected to take around two years to prepare, as the site’s irradiated water must first go through a filtration process before it can be further diluted with seawater and finally released into the site. Ocean.
In 2018, Tokyo Electric apologized after admitting that its filtration systems did not remove all the hazardous material from the water, collected from the cooling pipes used to prevent melting of fuel cores when the plant was paralyzed.
He said he plans 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 tritium into the ocean.
In April, a team sent by the International Atomic Energy Agency to look into problems with contaminated water at the Fukushima site said the water disposal options outlined by an advisory board in Japan – steam release and discharges into the sea – both were technically feasible. The IAEA said that both options were used by the management of nuclear power plants.
Last week, representatives of the Japanese fishing industry urged the government not to allow the release of contaminated water from the Fukushima plant into the sea, saying it would undo years of work to restore their reputation.
South Korea maintained its ban on imports of seafood from the Fukushima region, imposed after the nuclear disaster, and last year summoned a senior Japanese embassy official to explain how Tokyo intended to tackle the water problem. Fukushima.
During Tokyo’s attempt to host the Olympic Games in 2013, then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told members of the International Olympic Committee that the Fukushima facility was “under control.”
The Games have been postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic and some events will be held within a maximum distance of 60 km (35 miles) from the destroyed facility.
(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko, Yuka Obayashi and Mari Saito; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Raju Gopalakrishnan)