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Nuclear waste set for ocean

Fukushima water release approved by MARI YAMAGUCHI The Associated Press | July 23, 2022 at 3:43 a.m.

TOKYO -- Japan's nuclear regulator on Friday approved details of a planned release of treated radioactive wastewater from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea next year.

The approval by the Nuclear Regulation Authority will enable Tokyo Electric Power Co. to start building necessary facilities ahead of the discharge. It came two months after a preliminary greenlight and a subsequent public review process.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings submitted the plan in December based on a government decision last year to release the wastewater as a necessary step for the plant's ongoing decommissioning.

A earthquake and tsunami in 2011 destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi plant's cooling systems, causing triple meltdowns and the release of large amounts of radiation. Water that was used to cool the three damaged reactor cores, which remain highly radioactive, has since leaked into basements of the reactor buildings but was collected and stored in tanks.

Local fishing communities and neighboring countries have raised concerns about potential health hazards from the radioactive wastewater, which TEPCO and government officials say will be treated to levels far below releasable standards. They maintain that the environmental and health impacts will be negligible.

Japan nuclear authority chairman Toyoshi Fuketa told reporters Friday that the release plan had no major technical or safety issues. He said the regulators will ensure approved procedures are strictly followed with transparency.

Of more than 60 isotopes selected for treatment, all but one, tritium, will be reduced to meet safety standards, the government and utility say. Scientists say tritium affects humans more when it is consumed in fish.

The contaminated water is being stored in about 1,000 tanks at the damaged plant. Officials say they must be removed so facilities can be built for its decommissioning.

TEPCO said it plans to transport treated and releasable water through a pipeline from the tanks to a coastal facility, where it will be diluted with seawater and then sent through an undersea tunnel with an outlet about 0.6 miles away to minimize the impact on local fishing and the environment.

The government and TEPCO still need to gain local consent for building the tunnel and other related facilities. They plan to begin gradually releasing the treated water in the spring.

China on Friday renewed its protest over the planned wastewater release and urged Japan to carry out the disposal in "a scientific, open, transparent and safe manner."

Japan has sought help from the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure the water release meets international safety standards and reassure local fishing and other communities and neighboring countries that have opposed the plan.

Experts from the agency visited the plant earlier this year and said Japan was taking appropriate steps for the planned discharge.

In a statement Friday, the power company pledged to sincerely respond to the agency's reviews, ensure safety, provide data to the public and strengthen its radiation monitoring. The company also vowed to do its utmost to explain the water discharge plans and gain the public's understanding about the decommissioning.

Information for this article was contributed by Liu Zheng of The Associated Press.

Print Headline: Nuclear waste set for ocean

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