Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), the operator of the former Fukushima nuclear plant, is running out of storage to keep radioactive water from the 2011 disaster and may have to dump some radioactive water in the Pacific, Japan’s environment minister Yoshiaki Harada said on Tuesday.
Tepco is keeping more than 1 million tons of contaminated water from the 2011 disaster–water that was used to cool the nuclear plant’s core to stave off a meltdown. But the company has said that it will run out of room for the water by 2022.
The Japanese government has yet to come up with an official position on how to proceed with the water disposal/treatment and is awaiting a report from a panel of experts on the best ways to dispose of the radioactive water.
“The only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it,” minister Harada said at a news briefing on Tuesday, as carried by Reuters.
Harada did not elaborate on details about how much water could end up in the Pacific, and noted that “The whole of the government will discuss this, but I would like to offer my simple opinion.”
In a separate news briefing, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was quick to specify that Harada’s comments about dumping the Fukushima water into the Pacific was “his personal opinion.”
Last month, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry summoned the diplomat for economic affairs from the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, Tomofumi Nishinaga, to ask for explanation about a reported plan that Japan could discharge water from Fukushima into the Pacific.
Apart from South Korea, a discharge of water into the ocean would anger local Japanese fishermen who have struggled to rebuild their industry after the nuclear disaster in 2011.
A recent estimate from Hiroshi Miyano, the head of the investigative committee on the decommissioning of the Fukushima plant at the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, says that it would take 17 years to send treated radioactive water into the sea.