This photo taken in January 2019 shows tanks storing radioactively contaminated water within the compound of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. (Kyodo)
TOKYO (Kyodo) — The Japanese government on Monday tried to impress upon embassy officials from nearly two dozen countries the merits of a plan to release radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the ocean.
A briefing session was held at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo to give an update on how more than 1 million tons of water that have been treated and kept in tanks at the crippled complex will be disposed of as storage space is quickly running out.
Both releasing the water into the Pacific Ocean and evaporating it are “feasible methods” as there are precedents for them in and out of Japan, though the former, in particular, could be carried out “with certainty” because it would be easier to monitor radiation levels, the government explained.
It has said the health risks to humans would be “significantly small,” as discharging the water over a year would amount to between just one-1,600th to one-40,000th of the radiation that humans are naturally exposed to.
But the discharge could cause reputational damage to the fishing and farming industries in the surrounding area, raising the need for countermeasures, the government said in the briefing, which came after the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on Friday submitted a draft report on the methods to a subcommittee on the issue.
About 170 tons of water is contaminated at the Fukushima plant every day as it is poured onto the wreckage to cool the melted fuel or as it passes through as groundwater.
The contaminated water is being purified using an advanced liquid processing system, or ALPS, though the process does not remove tritium and has been found to leave small amounts of other radioactive materials.
Tanks used to store the treated water are expected to reach capacity by summer 2022.
Local fishermen have voiced opposition to releasing the water into the ocean out of fears that consumers would stop buying seafood caught nearby. Neighboring countries, including South Korea, which currently bans seafood imports from the area, have also expressed unease.
But no embassy officials voiced such concerns at Monday’s briefing, according to the industry ministry.
The briefing was attended by 28 embassy officials from 23 countries and regions — Afghanistan, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Britain, Cambodia, Canada, Cyprus, East Timor, France, Germany, Italy, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Moldova, Panama, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey and the European Union.