Tokyo, Mar 4 (efe-epa).- Japan defended its plans Thursday to dump water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea after treating it to remove most radioactive elements, though they didn’t say when this controversial measure would be carried out.
The government and the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power, opted for this measure considering it the most viable among a range of other more complex options to solve the problem of accumulated contaminated water in the Fukushima Daiichi power station.
Authorities support the idea, although they said they had to gather more opinions from “affected communities” and make a final decision according to criteria such as “reputational damage,” Industry Minister Yumiko Hata said Thursday at a telematic press conference.
The controlled dumping into the Pacific Ocean has been rejected by fishermen’s associations in Fukushima, one of the industries’ hardest hit by the 2011 nuclear accident, as well as by neighboring countries such as China and South Korea, who fear contamination of their fishing grounds.
This water accumulated after the March 2011 disaster caused by the earthquake and resulting tsunami that destroyed four reactors at the plant.
This water, stored in huge tanks, comes from the cooling of damaged reactor cores and underground aquifers and rain that seeps and ends up contaminated with radioactive isotopes.
The Fukushima Daiichi facilities have a water processing system that removes most of the radioactive materials considered dangerous, with the exception of tritium, an isotope present in nature in low concentrations.
Japan says the dumping “would conform to national security standards and the International Atomic Energy Agency,” according to Hata.
“Even if we spilled all the water stored in Fukushima Daiichi at once, the impact on human health would be considerably small,” the official said.
About 1.22 million cubic meters of processed water are currently stored in Daiichi, while the storage capacity limit is 1.37 million and it is estimated this could be reached next year.
The final decision on what to do with the water and the implementation of the spill will still take about two years, said Hata, adding that “there is no exact date to reach a resolution.”
In the event that the maximum storage capacity of processed water is reached at the plant without having decided what to do with it, the operator is considering expanding the space available for the drums, said Akira Ono, the operator’s head of dismantling.
The problem of contaminated water is one of the many challenges the operator and Japanese authorities face on the long road to dismantling Daiichi, a process that will last until at least 2050. EFE-EPA