The government of Japan has told diplomats that it is still considering options for handling contaminated toxic radioactive water stored as part of contamination management measures following damage to Fukushima nuclear power plant which was hit by 2011's earthquake and tsunami.
Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) is trying to cool melted fuel cores by pouring water over them. Concerns have been expressed that Japan may dump the water into the Pacific Ocean as storage tank capacity is set to be exceeded by mid 2022.
A September 5 briefing for embassy officials in Tokyo followed an August meeting of a government panel of experts looking into ways to solve the water problem and a final government decision will be made based on a report by the panel, diplomats were told, but timing of the decision has not been fixed.
The briefing for diplomats was attended by 27 embassy officials from 22 countries and regions, including South Korea and the United States.
“With transparency in mind, Japan will continue providing the international community with information (on the Fukushima situation),” Koichiro Matsumoto, the Foreign Ministry’s director of international cooperation, told diplomats.
Water has been treated but still contains some radioactive elements including tritium, which cannot be separated.
Japan is eager to get countries to lift restrictions on food imports from the Fukushima area ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics; restrictions on imports remain in place in 22 countries and regions, including South Korea and China.
Aside from the environmental stance, it has been suggested that South Korea is trying to make additional points; specifically to retaliate for Japan’s recent economic measures against South Korea, and perhaps to embarrass the Japanese government in advance of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
In August, Japan’s economic minister at its embassy in South Korea was summoned for a meeting in Seoul regarding a reported decision to release toxic radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean.
Kwon Se Jung, director general in charge of climate change and environmental affairs at South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a note verbale, August 13, to Japan on the matter.
South Korea said then that its action follows requests for meetings and information since October 2018 after the environmental group Greenpeace released a report about the Japanese government’s plan for the toxic water discharge.
OOSKAnews and other media have reported that storage capacity at Fukushima will run out in 2022.
South Korea is trying to solicit support of neighboring countries in its appeal for information but so far has not been too successful. The country also plans to raise the issue in the next meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in September.