TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s nuclear regulator on Friday approved details of a planned discharge of treated radioactive wastewater from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea next year.
Approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority will allow Tokyo Electric Power Co. to begin building necessary facilities before the release. It came two months after a preliminary green light and subsequent public review process.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings submitted the plan in December based on a government decision last year to discharge sewage as a necessary step for the ongoing dismantling of the plant.
A massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011 destroyed the cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, causing a triple meltdown and releasing large amounts of radiation. The water that was used to cool the three damaged reactor cores, which remain highly radioactive, has since seeped into the basements of the reactor buildings but has been collected and stored in tanks.
Local fishing communities and neighboring countries have raised concerns about potential health risks from radioactive wastewater, which TEPCO and government officials say will be treated at levels well below discharge standards. They argue that the environmental and health impacts will be negligible.
Japan’s nuclear authority chairman Toyoshi Fuketa told reporters on Friday that the release plan presented no major technical or security issues. He said regulators will ensure approved procedures are strictly followed with transparency.
The government and TEPCO say that of more than 60 isotopes selected for processing, all but one, tritium, will be reduced to meet safety standards. Scientists say the effects of long-term, low-dose exposure to tritium for the environment and humans are still unknown. Tritium affects humans more when consumed in fish, they say.
The contaminated water is stored in approximately 1,000 tanks at the damaged plant. Officials say they must be removed so that facilities can be built for its dismantling. The tanks are expected to reach their capacity of 1.37 million tonnes next year.
TEPCO said it plans to transport the treated, releasable water through a pipeline from the reservoirs to an onshore facility, where it will be diluted with seawater and then sent through an underwater tunnel with an exit about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) away to minimize impact. on local fishing and the environment.
The government and TEPCO have yet to obtain local consent for the construction of the tunnel and other related facilities. They plan to start gradually releasing the treated water in the spring of 2023.
On Friday, China renewed its protest against the planned discharge of sewage and urged Japan to carry out the disposal in a “scientific, open, transparent and safe manner”.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin called on Japan “to stop pushing the discharge plan before reaching consensus with all relevant stakeholders and international agencies.”
Japan has asked the International Atomic Energy Agency for help to ensure the water release meets international safety standards and reassure local fishermen and other neighboring communities and countries who have opposed to plan.
IAEA experts visited the plant earlier this year and said Japan was taking appropriate action for the expected release.
In a statement released on Friday, TEPCO pledged to sincerely respond to IAEA reviews, ensure safety, provide data to the public and strengthen its radiation monitoring. The company has also pledged to do everything possible to explain the water disposal plans and make the dismantling public understandable.
–AP video producer Liu Zheng in Beijing contributed to this report.
About the photo: This photo shows tanks (in grey, beige and blue) storing water that has been treated but is still radioactive after being used to cool spent fuel at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the city of Okuma, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, on February 27, 2021. Japan’s nuclear regulator on Friday July 22, 2022 approved the discharge into the sea of treated radioactive wastewater from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant next year. (AP Photo/Hiro Komae, File)
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