Fukushima water will be released into the ocean early Thursday

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida gave his final approval Tuesday to kick-start a plan for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to release treated, diluted sewage into the Pacific Ocean early Thursday.

In a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Kishida called the controversial move an important step in decommissioning the plant and in Fukushima Prefecture’s recovery process after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami destroyed the plant’s cooling systems, causing three of the reactors to melt and contaminate the cooling water. .

To date, about 1.34 million tons of water has been collected and filtered, and it is now stored in about 1,000 tanks. But the reservoirs are nearing capacity and will likely be full in early 2024.

The Japanese government, along with the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Holdings Corporation (TEPCO), said that if the water is not removed, there are risks of accidental leakage from the tanks. They must also give way to decommissioning the plant. Kishida instructed TEPCO to prepare to begin the process of releasing filtered water off the coast on Thursday, as long as weather and sea conditions permit.

At the cabinet meeting, Kishida gave reassurances that the government had done everything it could to ensure the integrity of the plan and explained the scientific basis behind its plan. He said the government will continue to push these efforts forward until the decommissioning process is completed, which could take decades. Kishida also said that the government has tried to protect the reputation of the fishing industry, which it will continue to do as well.

“The government will take responsibility until the disposal of treated water in the Alps is completed, even if it takes several decades,” Kishida said at the meeting.

Scientists largely support the view that the plan, if implemented as designed, will be safe. The Japanese government and TEPCO say the plan is to treat the water and then dilute it with seawater to levels safer than international standards.

The International Atomic Energy Agency determined in its final report issued last July that the plan, if followed closely, would have little impact on the environment and human health.

The agency’s director general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said in a statement Tuesday that the UN agency’s office, which opened last month at the plant, will continue to work to monitor leaks to ensure the water continues to adhere to safety standards. Grossi also said the agency will release information, including real-time monitoring data.

The government and TEPCO will also publish the results of periodic tests of sea water and marine life on their websites.

However, there are still some questions about the long-term effect of low doses of radioactivity in water. Neighboring countries have also reacted harshly to the move, expressing concerns about the safety of sea waters.

South Korea, a major ally, said officials confirmed that Japan intends to drain the water according to the initial plan, but if that does not happen, South Korea’s first vice minister of the Office for Government Policy Coordination, Park Ko-yeon, said it would ask Japan to stop the water discharge. Hong Kong and Macau announced they would ban products from Fukushima and nine neighboring prefectures as a result of Tuesday’s news, and China moved to increase radiation tests on Japanese fishery products.

is associated The press contributed reports.

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