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Fukushima residents feel left out in TEPCO’s water plan

Four pillars stick out of the sea 1 kilometer offshore from Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on Jan. 24. Treated radioactive water will be released from outlets at the bottom of these pillars through an undersea tunnel.

February 26, 2023

As Tokyo Electric Power Co. moves closer to discharging tons of stored water from its stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, local opposition has intensified and cries of betrayal are being heard.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority in July 2022 concluded that “there are no safety issues” with the water being released into the sea. The water will be treated to eliminate most of the radioactive substances and diluted to government safety standards.

TEPCO has been steadily moving ahead with the water-discharge plans since the NRA’s assessment.

Locals now feel that their opinions do not matter anymore, even though the water-discharge plan could negatively affect their livelihoods for decades to come.


A TEPCO employee on the shore pointed out toward the water and said: “Can you see them?”

Four pillars were sticking out from the sea surface about 1 kilometer offshore of the Fukushima plant.

The employee explained that water discharge outlets are located at the bottoms of these pillars.

Workers in January were digging the final 200 meters of an undersea tunnel that will be connected to the outlets. The drilling work is scheduled to finish this spring.

The water stored at the plant can then be discharged from the tunnel in spring or summer.

TEPCO says it has no other choice to deal with the water-storage problem at the plant.

The tsunami generated by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake knocked out the cooling system for the plant, leading to a triple meltdown.

Water used to cool down the nuclear fuel in the reactor buildings become contaminated with radioactive materials. Compounding the problem was the continuous flow of groundwater and rain into the damaged reactor buildings. This contaminated water also had to be stored for treatment.

After most of the radioactive materials were removed, the water has been stored in tanks on the compound.

Around 1.32 million tons of water is now stored at the plant, more than enough to fill the Tokyo Dome, according to TEPCO.

About 1,000 storage tanks line the compound. The utility said 96 percent of their capacity is already filled, and they will all be full by autumn.


In April 2021, the administration of then-Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga decided to discharge the treated water into the sea.

The government and TEPCO reached an agreement with the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations in 2015 that “the treated water will not be released without the understanding of people involved.”

The fishermen see TEPCO’s unceasing progress on the plan as backing out of that promise.

Tetsu Nozaki, head of the associations, and local fishermen had a meeting with economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, on Feb. 25.

“(The government) made the promise (in 2015). Now you are taking an opposite stance,” Nozaki said to Nishimura.

“We have no choice but to repeatedly and thoroughly explain the plan,” Nishimura said.

Toshimitsu Konno, 64, head of the Soma Futaba fishery cooperative association in the prefecture, said, “What makes the government and TEPCO think that we have agreed?”

The group is the largest in Fukushima Prefecture, with 846 members.

They oppose the water release, saying it may spark harmful rumors about local marine products.

However, Konno has mixed feelings, especially when he thinks about the next generation of fishermen.

About 100 people joined the local fisheries industry after the 2011 nuclear accident.

Konno believes that only the complete decommissioning of the plant will end the reputation damage once and for all.

The government and TEPCO have said the water release is crucial for the decommissioning process.

“That’s why we cannot simply oppose the plan,” Konno said.

TEPCO expects to discharge up to 500 tons of treated water per day. At that rate, it will take at least 30 years to empty all of the tanks.

“We must live with the situation for 30 or 40 years until the plant is decommissioned. No matter what we do, there will always be problems,” Konno said.

He is struggling over what needs to be done now to proceed with the decommissioning and create a future for the fishing industry.

“We have our own distress as residents,” Konno said.


TEPCO has been unable prevent groundwater and rainwater from becoming contaminated by the damaged reactors.

The utility tried to block the flow of groundwater by creating a 1.5-km-long frozen soil wall around the No. 1 to No. 4 reactor buildings at the plant.

Workers set up cooling pipes underground carrying a refrigerant of minus 30 degrees. The idea was that the frozen soil would create a barrier to divert the water away from the reactor buildings.

The barrier system cost around 34.5 billion yen ($253 million) to build. It began operation in March 2016.

However, the ice wall has had a series of problems, including underground temperatures exceeding zero degrees in some areas and the refrigerant leaking from the pipes.

TEPCO initially planned to complete its countermeasures against water leaks at reactor buildings and finish operations of the ice wall around March 2021.

The ice wall is still in use, but the water flow to the reactor buildings has continued.

According to TEPCO, the amount of treated water generated per day decreased from 540 tons in 2014 to 130 tons in 2021.

The utility expects the amount to drop to 100 tons by fiscal 2025 and between 50 and 70 tons by fiscal 2028.

“It is difficult to reduce the amount of contaminated water to zero at this point,” a TEPCO official said.

(This article was compiled from reports by Shoko Rikimaru, Hideki Motoyama, Takuro Yamano and Ryo Sasaki.)


March 5, 2023 - Posted by | Fuk 2023 | , , ,

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