Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has stated the federal government will determine on Tuesday when it would start to discharge handled radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean.

Round 1.34 million tonnes of water, equal to greater than 500 Olympic swimming swimming pools, have amassed because the Fukushima plant was knocked out by an earthquake and tsunami that killed 18,000 individuals in 2011.

Plant operator TEPCO says that with round 1,000 metal tanks now full, house has run out and that it desires to progressively begin discharging the water into the Pacific through a one-kilometre (0.6-miles) underwater pipe.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, financial system, commerce and business minister, advised a information convention on Monday that ministers would meet on Tuesday to determine when to start the discharge of the water.

“Related ministers will talk about and share data on what subsequent steps ought to be taken, and based mostly on these discussions, we wish to decide in regards to the timing,” he stated.

A TEPCO official stated at a separate information convention that, as soon as the federal government choice is taken, the discharge would start “one to 2 days” later.

The federal government had stated it deliberate to start releasing the water this 12 months.

The water has collected up to now 12 years from water used to chill three melted-down reactors, mixed with groundwater and rain on the website in north-east Japan.

TEPCO says that it has been diluted and filtered to take away all radioactive substances besides tritium, which is way under harmful ranges.

The plan has been endorsed by the United Nations atomic watchdog, which stated in July it will have a “negligible radiological impression on individuals and the atmosphere”.

“Tritium has been launched [by nuclear power plants[ for decades with no evidential detrimental environmental or health effects,” Tony Hooker, nuclear expert from the University of Adelaide, told the AFP news agency.

Environmental group Greenpeace says, however, that the filtration process is flawed and that an “immense” quantity of radioactive material will be dispersed into the sea over the coming decades.

China has accused Japan of treating the ocean like a “sewer”.

China – Japan’s biggest market for seafood – has banned food shipments from 10 Japanese prefectures and imposed radiation checks on imports from elsewhere.

These time-consuming checks have already led to a 30-percent slump in Japanese seafood imports into China last month, Japanese and Chinese media reported, citing Chinese customs data.

Hong Kong, an important market for Japanese seafood exports, has also threatened restrictions.

Many in Japan’s fisheries industry worry therefore that the discharge will cause damage to the reputation of Japanese seafood abroad.

“Nothing about the water release is beneficial to us,” third-generation fisherman Haruo Ono, 71, whose brother was killed in 2011, told AFP in Shinchimachi, 60km (37 miles) north of the nuclear plant.

Prime Minister Kishida has promised a 30-billion-yen ($206m) fund to compensate local fishers for reputational damage.

He said on Monday after meeting Masanobu Sakamoto, head of the national fisheries co-operative, that the government has “made every possible preparation to ensure the safety, prevent reputational damage and help keep people’s livelihood afloat, and we have been offering explanations to that end”.

“I promise that we will take on the entire responsibility of ensuring the fishing industry can continue to make their living, even if that will take decades,” Kishida said.

Meanwhile, Nishimura said the government had won “a degree of understanding” from the fishing industry for the discharge of the treated radioactive water.

Japan has spent months trying to win over public opinion at home and abroad, with everything from livestreaming fish living in the treated water to efforts to counter online disinformation.

Public concern also remains high in South Korea but its government, which has sought to thaw ties with Japan, said its review of the plan found it in line with international standards.

The release of the treated water – a maximum of 500,000 litres per day, TEPCO says – is just one stage of the clean-up.

The far more dangerous task remains of removing radioactive debris and highly dangerous nuclear fuel from the three reactors that went into meltdown.


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