Storage tanks at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant hold tons of radiation-contaminated water.

August 3, 2022

FUKUSHIMA–Local officials here gave the go-ahead to Tokyo Electric Power Co. to begin preparations to discharge tons of treated but still contaminated water from its stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.

Approval was given Aug. 2 by Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori and the mayors of Okuma and Futaba, where the TEPCO plant is located, for the utility to begin work to dig a tunnel from the site and install the necessary equipment.

However, TEPCO still needs to gain the understanding of “interested parties” before any water can be released.

The plan has angered local fishermen concerned about their livelihoods and triggered alarm overseas as the water will still contain a radioactive element, tritium, which is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, that cannot be removed with current technology.

Thousands of tons of contaminated water have accumulated at the plant that went into triple meltdown in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, and the facility is fast running out of space to set up more storage tanks.

Tetsu Nozaki, who heads the Fukushima prefectural federation of fisheries cooperatives, told reporters in late July that his organization remains steadfastly opposed to the release of the water into the ocean. Fishermen also are up in arms, fearing the move would only fuel further negative publicity over their fish hauls.

Uchibori and the mayors met Aug. 2 with Tomoaki Kobayakawa, the TEPCO president, and told him they had no issue with the safety of the equipment to be used.

Prior approval of any new equipment TEPCO plans to install at the Fukushima plant is required under a safety agreement the local governments signed with the utility.

Uchibori again pressed TEPCO officials to make an all-out effort to gain the understanding of interested parties so the water release plan can go ahead.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority in July approved TEPCO’s water release plan. Prior to that, Uchibori stated that any decision on approving the new equipment to be installed at the Fukushima plant would be made regardless of opposition among interested parties to the plan.

In August 2015, the government and TEPCO submitted a document to the prefectural fisheries cooperatives federation stating that no water would be treated and released into the ocean without the understanding of the interested parties.