Fishermen working near the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant agreed on Tuesday to allow the release of uncontaminated groundwater around the facility into the ocean, a fisheries union official said.
Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), the operator of the Fukushima plant that suffered triple nuclear meltdowns after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, is trying to contain radioactive water at the site. It has lobbied local fishermen to allow a "groundwater bypass" for nearly three years.
TEPCO has built more than 1,000 tanks at the Fukushima plant that hold more than 431,000 tons of radioactive water. Contaminated water accumulates at a rate of 400 tons a day at Fukushima as groundwater flows downhill into the destroyed basements of the reactor buildings and mixes with highly radioactive water used to cool melted fuel. Radioactive water poses a long-term risk to the shutdown of the plant, a task expected to span more than three decades.
TEPCO's bypass will release 100 tons of decontaminated groundwater a day that flows downhill toward the devastated plant and funnel it to the sea before it reaches the reactor buildings.
Both Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority and the International Atomic Energy Agency have said controlled release of low-level water should be considered to make storage space at the facility for irradiated water.
Local fisheries unions had been bitterly opposed to TEPCO's proposed bypass after irradiated water leaked from tanks that were just uphill of the proposed groundwater drains last year. The leaks sparked international alarm and led to a boycott of Fukushima seafood by South Korea.
Last year, fishermen requested a third party organization to check radiation levels of groundwater before it is released and any released water to have less than 1 becquerels per liter of Cesium-134, a radioactive element that has a half life of around two years.
The legal limit of releasing Cesium-134 into the ocean is 60 becquerels per liter.
A fishing ban along the coast of Fukushima after the nuclear accident pushed most fishermen out of a job except for occasional work catching certain types of fish deemed safe.© Japan Today/Thomson Reuters