TEPCO's plan to build facilities for treated water release gets local approval

Local authorities have approved the construction of facilities used to release treated water from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the ocean.

The governor of Fukushima Prefecture, Uchibori Masao, and the mayors of the two municipalities hosting the plant, Okuma and Futaba towns, met with Tokyo Electric Power Company President Kobayakawa Tomoaki on Tuesday.

The local heads submitted to Kobayakawa a document showing their approval for TEPCO's plan to construct an underwater tunnel and other facilities.

They asked the utility to publicize data on radioactive material contained in treated water in a way that people will be able to easily understand.

They also asked TEPCO to work to prevent more contaminated water from being generated.

Kobayakawa said his firm will ensure safety in designing and operating the facilities based on the government's basic plan. He also said TEPCO will strengthen the monitoring of radioactive materials.

Uchibori said opinions vary about the ocean release plan, and it has not gained full public understanding. He asked Kobayakawa to offer careful and sufficient explanations to the public and maintain dialogue with people concerned.

TEPCO in December sought the approval of authorities for the release plan based on a safety agreement.

In July, the Nuclear Regulation Authority gave final approval of the plan drawn up by TEPCO.

Reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant suffered meltdowns in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

Water used to cool molten fuel mixes with rain and groundwater. The accumulated water is treated to remove most of the radioactive materials and stored in tanks on the plant's premises.

The filtered water still contains tritium. The government plans to dilute the water so that the percentage of tritium is well below the percentage permitted by national regulations. The amount of tritium in the diluted water is also expected to be below the guidance levels for drinking water quality established by the World Health Organization.

The utility is set to start full-fledged construction of the underwater tunnel and other facilities. It hopes to complete the work around spring of next year.

Locals, including fishers, are concerned about potential reputational damage to the region.

The question is whether the government and TEPCO can present effective measures to win local understanding.