Fishers in Japan's northeastern prefecture of Fukushima have formally allowed the release of decontaminated groundwater from around buildings of nuclear reactors into the sea.
The release is aimed at reducing production of heavily contaminated water in the basements of the buildings at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Groundwater flowing into the buildings is producing 300 tons of highly radioactive water daily, resulting in a huge number of storage tanks at the plant.
Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, and the government have been asking the fishers to allow the release to keep the water from flowing into the buildings and becoming heavily tainted.
TEPCO plans to use 41 wells already dug around the buildings to pump up the water and lower the levels of radioactive substances to between one-one-thousandth and one-ten-thousandth of their original amounts before releasing it.
The operator, the government and an independent institution plan to check so that only water below allowed levels is discharged.
On Tuesday, the local federation of fisheries cooperatives approved the plan on condition that the release rules are strictly followed and that compensation is paid for any damage due to harmful rumors.
Federation chairman Tetsu Nozaki said the approval was decided unanimously, but that some members were dissatisfied. He added that the plan is needed for steadily decommissioning the plant, and that he wants TEPCO and the government to keep their word.
The firm's Fukushima headquarters chief Yoshiyuki Ishizaki said the plan is a big step forward in the decommissioning process as well as tackling the problem of contaminated water. He said fishermen told him that the plan could lead to rebuilding of Fukushima's fishing industry, and that he will keep their remarks in mind.
TEPCO plans to start releasing the water soon.
Fishermen OK TEPCO's plan to dump Fukushima plant water into seaFUKUSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Fishermen in Fukushima Prefecture approved on Tuesday a plan by Tokyo Electric Power Co. to pump up contaminated groundwater continuously flowing into the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station and dump it into the ocean after removing almost all radioactive materials from it.
The plan is one of TEPCO's key measures aimed at curbing the amount of toxic water buildup at the complex. Local fishermen had long opposed the plan amid concern over pollution of the ocean and marine products.
"I don't know if it's acceptable for all fishery operators, but stable work of decommissioning (of the Fukushima plant) is necessary for the revival of Fukushima's fishery industry," Tetsu Nozaki, chairman of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations, told reporters after a board meeting.
He also called on TEPCO to make sure it will only discharge water which does not contain radioactive materials exceeding the legally allowable limit.
The amount of toxic water is piling up every day, as untainted groundwater is seeping into the reactor buildings and mixing with radioactive water generated in the process of cooling the reactors that suffered meltdowns in the nuclear crisis triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
By pumping up water through drainage wells and dumping it into the ocean after treatment, TEPCO said it will be able to halve some 300 tons of contaminated water being generated each day.
In exchange for approving the plan, the Fukushima fisherman's association demanded on Aug. 11 that the government and TEPCO continue paying compensation for the fishermen as long as the nuclear plant causes damage to their business, among other requirements.
On Tuesday, the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations also gave the green light for the release of treated water into the sea.
TEPCO has been struggling to resolve the problem of toxic water buildup at the plant for more than four years after the nuclear crisis, with radiation leakages into the environment still occurring regularly at the complex.
The company is also behind schedule on a project to build a huge underground ice wall, another key measure to prevent radioactive water from further increasing at the site.