Government pledges to make water safe before release, but plan is likely to raise concern.
Japan plans to release more than 1 million tonnes of contaminated water from the ruined Fukushima nuclear power station back into the sea, the government said on Tuesday, in a decision that is likely to anger environmentalists and neighbouring countries such as South Korea.
The announcement, 10 years after the nuclear power station was devastated in a tsunami triggered by one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded, is also another blow to the fishing industry in Fukushima, which has opposed such a step for years.
The work to release the water will begin in about two years, the government said, and the whole process is expected to take decades.
“On the premise of strict compliance with regulatory standards that have been established, we select oceanic release,” the government said in a statement after relevant ministers formalised the decision.
The water, equivalent to about 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools, needs to be filtered again to remove harmful isotopes and will be diluted to meet international standards before any release into the ocean.
The decision comes about three months ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, which were delayed by a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some events are planned to take place as near as 60 kilometres (35 miles) from the ruined Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Japan is in the midst of a decades-long project to decommission the power station, run by Tokyo Electric Power, and has struggled about what to do with the contaminated water.