TOKYO – Japanese authorities on Friday recommended releasing into the sea treated water that was contaminated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry made the recommendation before a panel that would need to decide the next steps on more than 1 million cubic tons of water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, according to local news agency Kyodo.
On 11 March 2011, a magnitude-9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami destroyed four of the six reactors at the plant, which led to the worst nuclear tragedy since Chernobyl in 1986.
The liquid, which has been accumulating since the incident, is a mix of cooling water and rain that has come in through the holes in the roofs of the reactors.
Although several options have been taken into account, the two options of either releasing the treated water into the Pacific Ocean or releasing its vapor into the atmosphere were seen as less damaging.
According to Kyodo, the authorities told a subcommittee looking into the matter that they were inclined to release the water into the ocean because it would be easier to monitor radiation levels.
However, the decision needs to be approved by higher government authorities after consulting with those affected and Tokyo Electric Power Company, Tepco, which is to decommission the Fukushima plant.
The space available for storing the water is limited — it will run out by mid-2022 and a new solution will be needed.
Until December, there were 1.18 million cubic meters in storage and by the end of 2020 there will be about 1.37 million. Annually, around 50,000 to 60,000 cubic meters of water is stored.
Japanese authorities and Tepco claim that the water to be released will have had adequate treatment to get rid of all the radioactive elements, except for tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that, according to Tepco, emits mild radiation and is naturally present in water and vapor.
The fishermen from the region, who have reduced their captures around 15.5 percent of the pre-nuclear disaster levels, fear that the released water could have negative impact on the fishing industry of the area.