Japan Seeks OK to Release 1,000 Tanks of Treated Radioactive Water Into Pacific Ocean

Japan is planning to release large amounts of treated radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean, saying the ocean dump is the most realistic option for removing the water.

The government and the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, announced plans in April to start releasing the radioactive water in Spring 2023, facing fierce opposition from fishermen, local residents, and China and South Korea, Japan's neighbors who could be affected by the radioactive water.

Japan has requested assistance from the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure the release meets international safety standards and plans to meet with six experts from the IAEA to visit the Fukushima Daiichi plant and discuss technical details of the release, Japanese officials said.

A U.N. nuclear agency arrived in Japan on Monday to plan preparations for the release into the ocean that will allow for the removal of hundreds of storage tanks to then make room for facilities needed for the destroyed plant's decommissioning.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant
Japan is planning to release large amounts of treated radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean, saying the ocean dump is the most realistic option for removing the water. The Pacific Ocean looks over nuclear reactor units of No. 3, left, and 4 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan on February 27. Hiro Komae/Associated Press

Japanese economy and industry minister Koichi Hagiuda pledged last week that Japan will explain the outcome of the IAEA reviews to the international community "in a courteous and transparent manner."

A separate IAEA taskforce on water testing earlier collected fish samples from the Fukushima coast as part of a routine review along with technical assistance for the plant's decommissioning. That team also included an expert from South Korea.

A massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011 knocked out the Fukushima Daiichi plant's cooling systems, triggering the meltdown of three reactors. Since then, large amounts of water used to cool the still highly radioactive reactor cores have leaked extensively. The contaminated water is being stored in about 1,000 tanks which are expected to reach their capacity next year.

Government and TEPCO officials said tritium, which is not harmful in small amounts, cannot be removed from the water, but all other isotopes selected for treatment can be reduced to safe levels. Controlled release of tritium from normal nuclear plants is a routine global practice, officials said.