November 13, 2018 / 10:19 AM / 10 months ago

IAEA pushes Japan for urgent disposal of contaminated Fukushima water

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan must urgently tackle a buildup of contaminated water at its Fukushima nuclear plant, destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami more than seven years ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Tuesday.

The call after a site visit by IAEA experts follows last month’s admission by plant owner Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), that water treated there still contained radioactive material, despite having said for years it had been removed.

A decision on disposing of the water “must be taken urgently, engaging all stakeholders, to ensure the sustainability of the decommissioning activities,” the IAEA said after its team spent about a week reviewing cleanup efforts.

In its statement, the agency said dealing with the water was “critical” to the clean-up after three reactors had meltdowns following explosions in the wake of the loss of power and cooling arrangements after the March 2011 quake and tsunami.

Tepco’s admission could ruin its chances of releasing the water into the ocean, a move Japan’s nuclear regulator says is the preferred method and is safe but which local fishermen oppose.

The roughly one million tonnes of water stored at the plant, sufficient for about 500 Olympic swimming pools, still contains detectable levels of potentially harmful radioactive particles, Tepco told the government on Oct. 1.

(Fukushima's "ice wall" IMG,

Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick and Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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