Sunday, May 19, 2024
28 C
Brunei Town

Japan OKs preparation step for Fukushima plant water release

TOKYO (AP) – Japan’s nuclear regulator yesterday 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 (TEPCO) 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 massive 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 neighbouring countries have raised concerns about potential health hazards from the radioactive wastewater, which TEPCO and government officials said will be treated to levels far below releasable standards. They maintain that the environmental and health impacts will be negligible.

Tanks storing water that was treated but is still radioactive after it was used to cool down spent fuel at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan. PHOTO: AP

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

The government and TEPCO said that of more than 60 isotopes selected for treatment, all but one, tritium, will be reduced to meet safety standards.

Scientists said impacts of long-term, low-dose exposure to tritium for the environment and humans are still unknown. Tritium affects humans more when it is consumed in fish, they said.

The contaminated water is being stored in about 1,000 tanks at the damaged plant. Officials say they must be removed so that facilities can be built for its decommissioning. The tanks are expected to reach their capacity of 1.37 million tonnes next year.

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 one kilometre away to minimise 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 spring 2023.

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

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

spot_img

Latest

spot_img