Tanks holding water contaminated with radioactive substances at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (Photo: The Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images)
The Japanese government has officially decided to release treated water from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the ocean. It will be discharged in about two years after being diluted.
The Cabinet has endorsed a draft bill on the matter. Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide is promising transparency as the process moves forward.
Suga said on Tuesday, "This is a path that we cannot avoid in order to realize Fukushima's regional reconstruction and decommission the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. We will execute it only after ensuring the process is safe.
Negative rumors must not stand in the way, or extinguish the hopes of people in Fukushima for recovery. The government will put out information based on science. We will do the best we can. It's all hands on deck."
The decision comes a decade after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan, triggering a triple meltdown at the power plant.
Water is used to cool molten nuclear fuel. It's mixing with rain and groundwater flowing into damaged reactor buildings, accumulating at a rate of 140 tons per day.
The facility has enough tanks to hold about 1.37 million tons of wastewater. But it's already at 90 percent of capacity. The remainder is expected to fill up sometime next year.
The water is treated in order to remove most of the radioactive material, but still contains radioactive tritium.
The concentration will be diluted to one-40th of what is required under national regulations. That's equivalent to about one-seventh of the World Health Organization's standard for drinking water.
The government will ask the plant's operator, known by its acronym TEPCO, to secure equipment needed to release the treated water in about two years.
The plan calls for cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency to disseminate transparent and objective information at home and abroad.
It also pledges support for the local fishery, tourism and agricultural industries. If there is damage to the reputation of an industry, the plan calls for TEPCO to provide compensation.
TEPCO President Kobayakawa Tomoaki said, "We will work hard to fulfill our responsibility to strike a balance between regional reconstruction, and decommissioning the reactors throughout the lengthy decommissioning process."
In Fukushima, the reaction from residents is mixed.
A resident said, "I think as long as it's within international standards, it can't be helped under the current circumstances."
Another resident said, "No one is satisfied with the decision. A few words from the prime minister, and the process is set in stone. This is wrong."
People in the fishing industry in particular have been strongly opposed to the plan.
The head of a national industry group has released a statement protesting the decision and urging the government to clarify how it will alleviate safety concerns in Japan and abroad.
Source: Newsday/News Wires/NHK