A massive earthquake and tsunami destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s cooling systems, causing three of its reactors to melt and contaminate their cooling water.
Japan will start releasing treated and diluted radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean as early as Thursday — a controversial but essential early step in the decades of work to shut down the facility 12 years after its meltdown disaster.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida gave the final go-ahead Tuesday at a meeting of Cabinet ministers involved in the plan and instructed the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, to be ready to start the coastal release Thursday if weather and sea conditions permit.
Kishida said at the meeting that the release of the water is essential for the progress of the plant decommissioning and Fukushima prefecture’s recovery from the March 11, 2011, disaster.
He said the government has done everything for now to ensure the plan's safety, protect the reputation of Japan's fishing industry and clearly explain the scientific basis to gain understanding in and outside the country. He pledged that the government will continue those efforts until the end of the release and decommissioning, which will take decades.
“The government will take responsibility until the disposal of ALPS-treated water is completed, even if it takes several decades," Kishida said.
A massive earthquake and tsunami destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s cooling systems, causing three of its reactors to melt and contaminate their cooling water. The water, now amounting to 1.34 million tonnes, is collected, filtered and stored in about 1,000 tanks, which fill much of the plant's grounds and will reach their capacity in early 2024.
The release of the treated wastewater has faced strong opposition from Japanese fishing organizations, which worry about further damage to the reputation of their seafood as they struggle to recover from the nuclear disaster. Groups in South Korea and China have also raised concerns, turning it into a political and diplomatic issue.
The government and TEPCO say the water must be removed to make room for the plant’s decommissioning and to prevent accidental leaks from the tanks.
Junichi Matsumoto, TEPCO executive in charge of the water release, said in an interview with the Associated Press last month that the water release marks “a milestone,” but is still only an initial step in a daunting decommissioning process.