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U.N. Agency Eyes Flushing More Fukushima-Contaminated Water

By Diane Barnes

Global Security Newswire

A worker checks a wall along a coastline at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in November. The International Atomic Energy Agency this week urged Tokyo to consider dumping additional contaminated water from the damaged site. A worker checks a wall along a coastline at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in November. The International Atomic Energy Agency this week urged Tokyo to consider dumping additional contaminated water from the damaged site. (Kimimasa Mayama/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.N. nuclear watchdog urged Japan to weigh dumping radioactive water from its Fukushima plant to help control the fluid's "enormous" quantity.

Japan should consider "all options" to manage radiation-tainted fluid from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, "including the possible resumption of controlled discharges to the sea," the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report prepared at Japan's request and made public on Thursday. A 2011 earthquake and tsunami led to meltdowns in three of the six reactors at the facility overseen by Tokyo Electric Power, and the plant operator has applied massive quantities of water since that time to help cool overheating components.

More than 132 million gallons of contaminated water had amassed on the facility's grounds as of late last year, and about a fifth of that amount was inside basements and other structures, the Vienna-based U.N. agency said in its report.

Other water was being stored inside hundreds of tanks, and the report says Tokyo Electric Power is fielding more of the containers. Tank leaks have been an ongoing problem, though, and the U.N. agency said Japan would need to take steps beyond deploying additional containers and refining decontamination technology already in place.

"It is necessary to find a sustainable solution" to the water problems at the coastal complex, the U.N. agency said in its assessment.

The IAEA authors urged Tokyo Electric Power to assess what "potential radiological impact" releasing additional contaminated water into the ocean would have on "the population and the environment." The company released more than 1,000 tons of water from the plant last September, when a typhoon flooded the site with more fluid than it could handle.

The report did not suggest how much water the site might ultimately dump, and it called for extensive discussion of the potential move with government authorities and the public.

"It is clear that final decision making will require engaging all stakeholders, including [Tokyo Electric Power], the [Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority], the national government, Fukushima prefecture government, local communities and others," says the report, which assesses Japan's efforts to plan and carry out the Fukushima site's dismantlement.

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