SOMA, Fukushima Prefecture–Fishermen in northern Fukushima Prefecture gave Tokyo Electric Power Co. the green light on July 27 to release radioactive groundwater from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the ocean after it undergoes decontamination treatment.
The Soma-Futaba fisheries cooperative association approved TEPCO’s “subdrain plan” at a board member meeting after earlier approval by the Iwaki fisheries union, which brings together fishermen operating on the southern Fukushima coast, to back the plant operator’s plan.
After the decisions by the two fisheries unions, the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations is expected to formally approve the subdrain plan in mid-August at the earliest.
To deal with the accumulation of contaminated groundwater at the plant, TEPCO and the central government implemented from May last year a “groundwater bypass” that intercepts clean groundwater before it flows into contaminated reactor buildings and reroutes it safely around the facility into the ocean.
Under the subdrain plan, the utility will pump 500 tons of water from 41 subdrain wells around the premises of the plant’s four crippled reactors each day. It expects that the amount of groundwater flowing into the reactor buildings will be drastically reduced, and the amount of contaminated water generated at the plant will be halved from the current levels.
The water will be released into the sea after it undergoes decontamination treatment to reduce cesium levels to below 1 becquerel and beta ray-emitting radioactive materials to less than 3 becquerels.
Because the decontamination equipment cannot remove tritium, water contaminated with the radioactive isotope that emits 1,500 becquerels or more of radiation will not be released into the sea.
TEPCO has sought the fisheries cooperatives’ approval of the subdrain plan.
But TEPCO’s delay in disclosing the flow of radioactive water into the ocean whenever it rained–which came to light in February–hampered negotiations with the fisheries unions, which felt the incident undermined their confidence in the utility.
At the meeting of the board members of the Soma-Futaba fisheries union, TEPCO officials explained that the subdrain plan was essential in reducing the flow of contaminated water into the ocean, according to Hiroyuki Sato, the union president.
The members who had remained strongly opposed eventually recognized the need for the subdrain plan and agreed to approve it, Sato said.
Based on requests from the two local fisheries cooperatives, the prefectural federation of fisheries unions will demand that TEPCO and the central government conduct periodic checks on waters emitted from the subdrain program.
The prefectural union will also request that a third-party watchdog monitor the process to prevent contaminated water from flowing into the ocean.
It will also request that TEPCO and the government to continue to provide compensation to local fishermen, while taking effective measures when the subdrain project causes harmful rumors about their products.
Source: Asahi Shimbun