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Japan could dump radioactive water from Fukushima into ocean

11 September 2019

On September 10, Japan’s Energy Minister said storage facilities for radioactive water at the Fukushima nuclear power plant would be full by 2022. As a result, he said, future contaminated water might have to be dumped in the Pacific Ocean.

Contaminated water tanks at Fukushima - Image: Tepco
Contaminated water tanks at Fukushima - Image: Tepco

The electric utility overseeing the crippled power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), is running out of room to store the contaminated water, Energy Minister Yoshiaki Harada said at a news conference.

Water is flushed around the destroyed nuclear plant’s fuel cores to stop them from overheating and exploding, and Tepco now has a stockpile of more than 1 million metric tonnes of contaminated water on the Fukushima site with little space left to build further containment tanks.

The plant, about 160 miles north of Tokyo, was devastated by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011. The incidents sparked three reactor meltdowns, a release of radiation, and the evacuation of more than 150,000 people from around the plant. It is considered the world's worst nuclear disaster since the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine in 1986.

Tepco has already announced that it will run out of room to store the contaminated water from the Fukushima plant in as little as three years. A government panel is expected to offer its recommendations in the coming months.

However, in advance of the panel’s recommendations, Harada said that the country had few alternatives. "The only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it," he said. "The whole of the government will discuss this, but I would like to offer my simple opinion."

The announcement has provoked strong opposition from environmentalists, fishermen and nearby countries. South Korean's foreign ministry said in a statement that it expected Japan "to take a wise and prudent decision on the issue."

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