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14 Dec, 2014 00:17

Watchdog: Radioactive Fukushima water to be cleaned, dumped into Pacific

Watchdog: Radioactive Fukushima water to be cleaned, dumped into Pacific

Japan’s nuclear watchdog says the radioactive water that has accumulated at the battered Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant must be decontaminated and dumped into the ocean, local media reported. The news has sparked concern from local fisherman.

READ MORE: Fukushima radiation detected 100 miles off California coast

“We have to dispose of the water,” Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), told a media conference after visiting the crippled nuclear power plant on Friday, Asahi Shimbun reported.

The NRA chief was referring to the contaminated water stored in tanks on the premises of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi power plant. He added that the water – which is tainted with radioactive material – poses a risk to the safety of the decommissioning work.

Tanaka has previously stated that the radioactive water at the site needs to be decontaminated so it falls under safety standards – and then it must be released into the sea.

This is aimed at battling growing amounts of toxic water accumulating in the plant’s buildings, and at reducing the volume of groundwater that is flowing through the premises and becoming contaminated.

“We also have to obtain the consent of local residents in carrying out the work, so we can somehow mitigate [the increase in tainted water],” he added on Friday. “While [the idea] may upset people, we must do our utmost to satisfy residents of Fukushima.”

Local fishermen have expressed concern over the contaminated water and other issues linked with water management at the Fukushima plant.

READ MORE: ‘TEPCO covered up the truth about Fukushima disaster’

Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations submitted a petition that calls on the government and Tokyo Electric Company (TEPCO) – the nuclear plant's operator – to make sure that the water released into the Pacific is safe and below the required radiation levels.

Plans to dump the water from the crippled nuclear plant into the ocean after removing the most dangerous radioactive elements were voiced as early as March. However, TEPCO’s initial efforts failed and the plan was indefinitely suspended after malfunctions crippled the water purification process and recontaminated thousands of tons of already cleaned liquid.

Some 400 tons of untainted groundwater are believed to be seeping into the buildings of the Fukushima plant on a daily basis. It is then mixing with the toxic water generated in the process of cooling the crippled reactors. TEPCO collects the radioactive groundwater and stores it at the site of the plant. However, storing the groundwater becomes more difficult each day, as the water quantity continues to increase.

Following the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, three reactors at the plant suffered nuclear meltdowns, causing a radioactive fallout. The catastrophe was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. TEPCO is engaged in a cleanup process at the site, which has been dogged by delays and setbacks. In January, the company started erecting a controversial underground frozen wall which is planned to stop radioactive water from seeping into the sea.