The operator of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan announced Wednesday that it plans to dump more than one million tons of stored water into the ocean through a submerged tunnel.
Tokyo Electric Power Corporation (TEPCO) will begin construction of the tunnel in March 2022, after conducting feasibility studies and obtaining approval from the authorities. The tunnel is about 2.5 meters in diameter and extends east into the Pacific Ocean from the plant’s tanks, which contain about 1.27 million tons of treated water. This includes water used to cool the plant, which was damaged after its collapse after the massive 2011 tsunami, as well as rain and groundwater that seeps in daily.
The plans for the one-kilometer tunnel were announced after the Japanese government decided in April to drain the water that had accumulated over two years.
Japanese rulers say the release is safe because the water will be treated to remove nearly all of the radioactive elements and will be diluted. However, the April decision sparked an angry reaction from neighboring countries and fierce opposition from local fishing communities.
The comprehensive pumping and filtration system extracts tons of freshly polluted water every day and filters out most of the radioactive elements. However, fishing communities fear that releasing the waters will undermine years of work to restore confidence in seafood.
The plant’s decommissioning director, Akira Ono, said the release of water through a tunnel You will help prevent him from returning to the coast. “We will detail our security policies and the measures we take against reputational damage so that we can allay the concerns of those involved in fishing” and other industries, Ono said.
TEPCO said in a statement that it was ready to pay damages to reputation in connection with the release and would accept inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency on the safety of the evacuation.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has described dumping water as an “inevitable task” in the decades-long process of decommissioning a nuclear power plant.
The debate over how to handle water has been going on for years as it ran out of storage space on site. The filtration process removes most of the radioactive elements from the water, but some remain, including tritium. Experts claim that this element is only harmful to humans in large doses and with dilution, treated water poses no scientifically detectable danger.
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