By Mari Yamaguchi
TOKYOJapan tried to reassure foreign diplomats Wednesday about safety at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant amid concerns about massive amounts of treated but radioactive water stored in tanks.
Diplomats from 22 countries and regions attended a briefing at the Foreign Ministry, where Japanese officials stressed the importance of combating rumors about safety at the plant, which was decimated by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, while pledging transparency.
Water must be continuously pumped into the four melted reactors at the plant so the fuel inside can be kept cool, and radioactive water has leaked from the reactors and mixed with groundwater and rainwater since the disaster.
The plant has accumulated more than 1 million tons of water in nearly 1,000 tanks. The water has been treated but still contains some radioactive elements. One, tritium – a relative of radiation-emitting hydrogen – cannot be separated.
Tritium is not unique to Fukushima’s melted reactors and is not harmful in low doses, and water containing it is routinely released from nuclear power plants around the world, including in South Korea, officials say.
The water has been a source of concern, sparking rumors about safety, especially as Japan tries to get countries to lift restrictions on food imports from the Fukushima area ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Import restrictions are still in place in 22 countries and regions, including South Korea and China.
Experts say the tanks pose flooding and radiation risks and hamper decontamination efforts at the plant. Nuclear scientists, including members the International Atomic Energy Agency and Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority, have recommended the water’s controlled release into the sea as the only realistic option scientifically and financially. Local residents oppose this, saying the release would trigger rumors of contamination, which would spell doom for Fukushima’s fishing and agriculture industries.
The panel recently added a sixth option of long-term storage.
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