MOSCOW, May 16 (RIA Novosti) – Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, plans to begin releasing underground water near the facility into the Pacific Ocean as early as next Wednesday, The Asahi Shimbun reported Friday.
The first water to be released will total around 560 tons, the agency said citing an official from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. TEPCO will begin releasing the water as soon as it presents results of radiation tests to local government and the fishing industry.
Initial talks between the government and TEPCO agreed that only water with 1,500 becquerels of radiation or less per liter could be released. Tests conducted by TEPCO and two outside agencies have revealed that the Fukushima underground water met the standards, averaging 220 to 240 becquerels of tritium per liter.
TEPCO began pumping out groundwater from the Fukushima nuclear plant in April in an effort to prevent further radioactive leaks.
The company continues to grapple with the problem of contaminated water storage, with about 450,000 tons of highly-radioactive water currently being stored in Fukushima’s underground facilities and tanks. Experts say some 15,000 tons is also being held in a service tunnel. According to recent estimates, up to 400 tons of contaminated water from the damaged plant is seeping into the Pacific Ocean every day.
In an effort to prevent further irradiation, TEPCO has adopted a plan to draw off groundwater from the plant. The fallout from Fukushima is later to be sent for analysis that will determine whether it is safe to be disposed of by dumping into the ocean.
The practice will allow the operator to reduce the accumulation of radioactive water at the plant by 100 tons a day.
Last August saw the worst radioactive water leak at the crippled Fukushima plant since the 2011 disaster, after 300 tons of water with strontium levels equaling 80 million becquerels per liter leaked from a storage reservoir into the Pacific Ocean. The leak was then classified as a level three incident on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES).
In March 2011, Japan was hit by a massive magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami, claiming more than 15,000 lives and causing a number of explosions at the Fukushima plant.
In what has been dubbed the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, three of the plant’s reactors underwent a partial meltdown as radiation leaked into the atmosphere, soil and seawater.