Radioactive water storage tanks are seen at Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture. Photo: REUTERS

Japan is resuming efforts to disperse the accumulation of contaminated water at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which is halting the cleanup process, the government said on Thursday.

A panel of experts will meet on Friday for the first time in eight months to consider options for getting rid of water, the Japanese government said in briefing papers.

The panel will consider strategies such as water evaporation and underground injection, as well as a recommendation from Japan's nuclear regulator to release treated water into the ocean, a more conventional technique.

Regular panel meetings had stopped almost three months after Tokyo Electric (TEPCO) admitted that it could not completely remove potentially hazardous radioactive particles from treated water held in tanks.

The admission was a setback for the company and the government, as water made it difficult to clean up where three reactors melted after an earthquake and tsunami in 2011, the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

In 2016, the Japanese government estimated that the total cost of plant dismantling, decontamination of affected areas and compensation would be 21,5 trillion yen (US $ 203 billion), or about one fifth of the country's annual budget.

Tokyo won the bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games around six years ago, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declaring that Fukushima was "under control" in his final speech to the International Olympic Committee.

At nuclear facilities around the world, contaminated water is treated to remove all radioactive particles except tritium, a relatively harmless hydrogen isotope that is difficult to separate from water and released into the environment.

But because of errors such as last year's admission that it had not removed everything except tritium from the tanks, TEPCO is struggling to gain the trust of regional fishermen who oppose the release of water in the ocean.

Some countries, including South Korea, still have restrictions on the production of areas around the Fukushima site.

TEPCO has completed the replacement of older leaked tanks with stronger ones, the government said.

Source: Reuters


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