Govt. approves plan to release treated water

The Japanese government has officially decided to release treated water from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the ocean.

First, the water will be diluted so the concentration of contaminants meets global safety levels.

The plan has been endorsed by the Cabinet. Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide is promising transparency as the process moves forward.

Suga said, "This is a path that we cannot avoid in order to realize Fukushima's regional reconstruction and decommission the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. We will execute the plan only after ensuring it is safe. Potential damage to their reputation must not stand in the way of, or extinguish the hopes of people in Fukushima for recovery."

The decision comes a decade after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan, triggering a triple meltdown at the power plant.

Water is used to cool molten nuclear fuel. It mixes with rain and groundwater that flows into damaged reactor buildings, accumulating at a rate of 140 tons per day.

That water undergoes a treatment process that removes most radioactive material, but it still contains radioactive tritium.

After that, the treated water is stored. There are about 1,000 tanks, now 90 percent full. The remainder is expected to fill up sometime next year.

Before it is released into the sea, it will be diluted so the tritium concentration is well below national standards and about one-seventh of the level the World Health Organization suggests for drinking water.

The government will ask the plant's operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, to secure the equipment it needs to begin releasing the treated water in about two years.

The plan calls for cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency to disseminate transparent and objective information at home and abroad.

It also pledges support for the local fishery, tourism and agricultural industries. If their reputation is damaged, TEPCO would be called upon to provide compensation.

TEPCO President Kobayakawa Tomoaki said, "We will work hard to fulfill our responsibility to strike a balance between regional reconstruction, and decommissioning the reactors throughout the lengthy decommissioning process."

It is common for nuclear plants to release water that has very low levels of tritium into the air or sea. Japan compiled data from other nations and found that both South Korea and China follow that practice.

But some people are not entirely sure about the process, which has garnered mixed reactions in Fukushima.

A man at Fukushima Station said, "I think as long as it's within international standards, it can't be helped under the current circumstances."

A fisherman in Fukushima said, "No one is satisfied with the decision. A few words from the prime minister, and the process is set in stone. This is wrong."

People in the fishing industry in particular have been strongly opposed to the plan.

The head of a national industry group has released a statement protesting the decision and urging the government to clarify how it will alleviate concerns in Japan and abroad.