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Disposal of contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi plant has been a long-standing problem for Japan as it pursues a decades-long decommissioning project. Nearly 1.2 million tonnes of contaminated water are currently stored in the facility’s huge tanks.
The plant, managed by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc, suffered multiple nuclear collapses after an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
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Japan’s Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said on Friday that no decision has yet been taken on the disposal of the water, but the government intends to make one soon.
“To avoid any delay in the decommissioning process, we need to make a decision quickly,” he said at a press conference.
He didn’t give further details, including a timeline.
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The Asahi newspaper reported that such a release should take around two years to prepare, as the irradiated water from the site must first go through a filtration process before it can be further diluted with seawater and finally thrown back into the ocean.
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In 2018, Tokyo Electric apologized after admitting that its filtration systems failed to remove all hazardous materials from the water, collected in the cooling pipes used to prevent fuel cores from melting when the plant was paralyzed.
He said he plans to remove all radioactive particles from the water except for tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that is difficult to separate and considered relatively harmless.
It is common for nuclear power plants around the world to release water containing traces of tritium into the ocean.
In April, a team sent by the International Atomic Energy Agency to examine problems with contaminated water at the Fukushima site said the water disposal options outlined by an advisory committee in Japan – the release of steam and discharges into the sea – were technically feasible. The IAEA said both options are used by the operation of nuclear power plants.
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Representatives of the Japanese fishing industry last week urged the government not to allow the discharge of contaminated water from the Fukushima plant into the sea, saying it would undo years of work to restore their reputation. .
South Korea upheld the ban on seafood imports from the Fukushima region that was imposed after the nuclear disaster and summoned a senior Japanese embassy official last year to explain how Tokyo planned to deal with the Fukushima water problem.
During Tokyo’s bid to host the Olympic Games in 2013, then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told members of the International Olympic Committee that the Fukushima facility was “under control.”
The Games have been postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic and some events are expected to take place as close as 60 km (35 miles) to the destroyed factory.
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