Japan could release Fukushima radioactive water into environment

Storage tanks holding radioactive water at Japan's crippled Fukushima power plant

Storage tanks holding radioactive water at Japan's crippled Fukushima power plant

Radioactive water that's being stored at Japan's disabled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant could be eliminated by releasing it into the Pacific Ocean, a government-appointed panel proposed Monday.

"I don't think there were objections from a technical perspective on releasing the water into the ocean, or vaporization", a ministry official was quoted as saying after Monday's meeting.

The proposal to a panel of experts is the first time the ministry has restricted the various options available to them. It is meant to tackle the huge headache for the plant's operator posed by the waste as storage space runs out, despite fears of a backlash from the public. The draft proposal will be discussed further.

The quake triggered an enormous tsunami which led to the destruction of the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on March 11, 2011.

For years, a government panel has been discussing ways to handle the crisis and to reassure fishermen and residents who fear potential health impacts from release of the contaminated liquid as well as harm to the region's image.

Fukushima fishermen and the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Federations have strongly opposed earlier proposals by government officials that the water would be released into the sea, warning of "disproportionate impact on the future of Japanese fishing industries". after the accident at the nuclear power plant.

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The 2 systems filter out nearly all radioactive elements but leaves tritium, which is very harmful to humans if it comes in large doses.

This is because there is no established method of separating it from water. The ministry said that controlled release at sea is the best option because it will "steadily dissolve and disperse" water from the plant and can be properly monitored.

The release is expected to take years, and radiation levels will remain well below the legal limit, the proposal said. The 2011 disaster is considered to be the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl and the meltdown at the plant was triggered by a 9.0-magnitude undersea quake which impacted Japan's northeast coast.

The plant is equipped with a pumping and filtration system that processes tons of contaminated water daily, leaving only tritium in its composition - an element that is said to be unsafe to people only in very large doses.

More than 900-thousand metric tons of contaminated water is now being stored in giant tanks at the site. TEPCO and experts say the tanks get in the way of ongoing decommissioning work and that space needs to be freed up to store removed debris and other radioactive materials. The tanks also could spill out their contents in a major natural disaster, tsunami or flood.

"This is not just a domestic issue, and the government of Japan must explain to the worldwide community - including its nearest neighbors in Asia - why it advocates for the water discharge into the Pacific Ocean or release to the atmosphere".

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