Japan may dump radioactive water into sea

STORAGE SHORTAGE::Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga in a news conference said the environment minister’s comments were ‘his personal opinion’

Reuters, TOKYO

Wed, Sep 11, 2019 - Page 1

Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Co would have to dump radioactive water from its destroyed the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean as it runs out of room to store it, Japanese Minister of the Environment Yoshiaki Harada said yesterday.

Tokyo Electric has collected more than 1 million tonnes of contaminated water from the cooling pipes used to keep fuel cores from melting since the plant was crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

“The only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it,” Harada told a news conference in Tokyo. “The whole of the government will discuss this, but I would like to offer my simple opinion.”

The government is awaiting a report from an expert panel before making a final decision on how to dispose of the radioactive water.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga in a separate news conference said that Harada’s comments were “his personal opinion.”

Tokyo Electric was not in a position to make a decision, but would follow the government’s policy once it is formulated, a utility spokesman said.

The utility said it would run out of room to store the water by 2022.

Harada did not say how much water would need to be dumped into the ocean.

Any green light from the government to dump the waste into the sea would anger neighbors including South Korea, which last month summoned a senior Japanese embassy official to explain how the Fukushima water would be dealt with.

“We’re just hoping to hear more details of the discussions that are under way in Tokyo so that there won’t be a surprise announcement,” a South Korean diplomat said, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of bilateral ties.

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it had asked Japan “to take a wise and prudent decision on the issue.”

Coastal nuclear power plants commonly dump water that contains tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that is difficult to separate and is considered to be relatively harmless, into the ocean.

Tokyo Electric, which also faces opposition from fishers, last year said that the water in its tanks still contained contaminants beside tritium.

“The government must commit to the only environmentally acceptable option for managing this water crisis, which is long-term storage and processing to remove radioactivity, including tritium,” Greenpeace Germany senior nuclear specialist Shaun Burnie said in an e-mail.