Storage tanks for contaminated water, at the site of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, in Okuma, Japan, in February 2019.

Overcoming the opposition, the Japanese government is preparing to decide to discharge into the ocean the contaminated water resulting from the cooling operations of the damaged reactors of the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

According to information given on Friday, October 16 by the Japanese media, an official decision should be taken before the end of October, in accordance with the wishes of the Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, a supporter of a solution ” as soon as possible “. As the operation requires work and an evaluation by the French Nuclear Regulatory Authority (ARN), the rejection should not begin for two years.

Read also Contaminated water, the lasting poison of Fukushima

Ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, the number one Fukushima power station in northeastern Japan suffered the meltdown of three of its six reactors. Since then, the Tokyo electricity company (Tepco) has been cooling these reactors with water that comes out of this operation loaded with radioactive components.

Tepco and its partners, including the French group Orano (formerly Areva, partner in the dismantling of the site), manage its treatment, carried out among others with the Advanced Liquid Treatment System (ALPS) which aims to eliminate some of the radionuclides, before storage in tanks installed on site. In September, 1.23 million tonnes of contaminated water filled 1,044 reservoirs. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), all tanks should be full by summer 2022.

Fears in Japan and abroad

For several years, Tokyo has been looking for a solution to get rid of it. In November 2018, an IAEA mission led by Frenchman Christophe Xerri, formerly of Cogema, Areva and Japanese Mitsubishi Nuclear Fuels, presented a report highlighting “The emergency” a decision on this matter.

In February, a Japanese government commission presented the vaporization in the atmosphere and the discharge into the sea as “Realistic options”. IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said at the same time that the discharge at sea “Corresponded to the standards in force in the world” within the nuclear industry.

Such a measure worries and the government, launched in a series of consultations on this subject since April, struggles to reassure. Fishermen, already severely affected by the disaster, categorically oppose it, recalled on October 15 Hiroshi Kishi, president of JF Zengyoren, national federation of fishing cooperatives, in an interview with the secretary general of the government, Katsunobu Kato. . The national consumer federation Shodaren is also against the rejection, which however benefits from the ” comprehension ” of the federation of chambers of commerce and industry.

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