Japan will start releasing massive amounts of treated radioactive water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean in two years.
The move is being fiercely opposed by local fishermen, residents and Japan’s neighbours – with China and South Korea calling for more consultation on the plan.
The decision, long-speculated but delayed for years due to safety concerns and protests, came at a meeting of Cabinet ministers who endorsed the ocean release as the best option.
The accumulating water has been stored in tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi plant since 2011, when a massive earthquake and tsunami damaged its reactors and their cooling water became contaminated and began leaking.
The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), says its storage capacity will be full late next year.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the ocean release was the “most realistic” option and that disposing the water is “unavoidable” for the decommissioning of the Fukushima plant, which is expected to take decades.
TEPCO and government officials say tritium, which is not harmful in small amounts, cannot be removed from the water, but all other selected radionuclides can be reduced to levels allowed for release.