Storage tanks for radioactive water at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Okuma town. File photo/ Reuters
Tokyo Electric Power will have to dump radioactive water from its destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant directly into the Pacific Ocean, Japan's environment minister said on Tuesday.
After the plant was crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011, Tokyo Electric, or Tepco, has collected in tanks at the wrecked sites more than 1 million tons of contaminated water from the cooling pipes used to keep fuel cores from melting.
The utility says it will run out of space by 2022.
“The only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it,” Yoshiaki Harada told a news briefing in the capital. “The whole of the government will discuss this, but I would like to offer my simple opinion.”
A final government decision on disposing of the tainted water awaits a report from an expert panel.
Harada did not say how much water would need to be put into the ocean.
Tepco officials were not immediately available for comment.
Any green light to dump the waste into the sea, however, could anger neighbours such as South Korea, which summoned a senior Japanese embassy official last month to explain how the country would deal with the Fukushima water.
Ties between the East Asian nations are already at a low ebb following a compensation dispute over Koreans forced to work in Japanese factories in World War Two.
Coastal nuclear plants commonly dump into the ocean water that contains tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that is hard to separate and is considered to be relatively harmless.
Tepco, which also faces opposition from local fishermen, admitted last year that the water in its tanks still contained contaminants beside tritium.
Japan will for the first time next month lift an evacuation order in one of two towns where the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is located, officials said on Tuesday.
Tokyo Electric Power plans to allow overseas workers coming to Japan under a new visa programme to work on the cleanup of its wrecked Fukushima nuclear power station north of Tokyo, a spokeswoman said on Friday.
The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima power plant on Monday began removing atomic fuel from inside a building housing one of the reactors that melted down in 2011.
Japan’s nuclear regulator plans to reinvestigate the Fukushima disaster, in which three reactors at an atomic power plant run by Tokyo Electric Power melted down after an earthquake and tsunami eight years ago, it said on Wednesday
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