Fukushima Daiichi treated water release likely to start this spring or summer

Japan's government has confirmed that the release of treated water into the ocean from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant will likely begin in the spring or summer.

The schedule was confirmed at a meeting of relevant Cabinet ministers at the prime minister's office on Friday.

The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, had said the previously confirmed schedule for the treated water release could be delayed after it reviewed construction work for an undersea tunnel.

The power plant in northeastern Japan suffered a triple meltdown in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Water used to cool molten fuel mixes with rain and groundwater. The accumulated water is treated to remove most of the radioactive materials and is stored in tanks on the plant's premises. The filtered water still contains tritium. How to manage the ever-increasing amounts of water within the premises has been at issue.

In April 2021, the government decided on a plan for TEPCO to release the treated water into the ocean after diluting it to reduce the concentration of tritium well below the percentage permitted by national regulations. The government plan said TEPCO should start the release of the treated water in about two years.

Attendants at Friday's Cabinet meeting said efforts to address possible reputational damage seem to be bearing fruit and they confirmed that they will continue to hold talks with local residents and business operators.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu told the meeting that the government will do its utmost to ensure the safety of the water release and prevent reputational damage. He also urged TEPCO to make sure that all the relevant activities will proceed smoothly.

With the start of the release approaching, the question is focused on whether the plan can win the public's understanding, as fears held by local fisheries operators and others remain strong.