The irradiated water discharge project would be carried out under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose director general visited the Fukushima plant. (Archives)
The Japanese nuclear regulator on Friday approved the plan to discharge contaminated water from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi power plant into the sea as proposed by the operator Tepco, which will however still have to convince local authorities and communities.
This controversial project had already been validated last year by the government and is supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
It consists of very gradually pouring into the Pacific Ocean off Fukushima more than a million tons of water contaminated with tritium, a radionuclide that cannot be eliminated by current technologies, but whose dilution at sea is already practiced in Japan and abroad on active nuclear installations.
This tritiated water comes from rain, groundwater or injections of water needed to cool the cores of several Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors that went into meltdown due to the tsunami of March 11, 2011, which hit the plant hard.
More than a thousand tanks have been installed around the plant to store this tritiated water after filtering operations aimed at eliminating other radioactive substances. But the on-site storage capacities will soon reach saturation.
According to experts, tritium is only dangerous for humans in high concentrated doses, a situation a priori excluded in the event of a discharge at sea spread over several decades, as provided by Tepco.
The IAEA also believes that this project will be carried out in full compliance with international standards and that it will cause no harm to the environment.
Tepco plans to start the operation in the spring of 2023, after the construction of an underwater conduit to transport the tritiated water approximately one kilometer from the coast.
But the operator still has to obtain prior authorizations from the Fukushima department and municipalities close to the plant, and is trying to allay the concerns of local fishermen, who fear negative consequences for the reputation of their fish with locals. consumers.
The project has also been criticized by Japan's neighbors China and South Korea, as well as environmental organizations such as Greenpeace.
“If Japan continues to put its own interests ahead of the international general interest, if it insists on taking [this] dangerous step, he will definitely pay the price for his irresponsible behavior and leave a stain on history.
— Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs
China and Russia have also provided Japan with a list of technical questions on this project, to which Tokyo has still not responded, Wang said at a regular press briefing.