• Kyodo

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U.S. officials are likely to meet Thursday in Honolulu to discuss how to conduct an environmental impact assessment on the proposed salvage of a Japanese high school fisheries training ship sunk in February by a U.S. submarine, a U.S. Navy source said Friday.

The officials will exchange opinions on the assessment to determine whether the salvaging of the 499-ton Ehime Maru from the seabed 600 meters below the surface off the island of Oahu will contaminate the environment by causing fuel to leak from the ship, the source said.

Participants will include working-level officials from the Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Hawaii’s environmental protection agency, according to the source.

The Ehime Maru, from Uwajima Fisheries High School in Ehime Prefecture, sank Feb. 9, just minutes after being hit by the 6,080-ton nuclear-powered sub Greeneville during a rapid surfacing demonstration for civilian guests aboard.

Nine Japanese, including four teenage students, were lost at sea. Their relatives have demanded that the United States raise the Ehime Maru as at least some of the bodies of the missing are believed to be entombed in the sunken ship.

The Navy’s Pacific Fleet said March 12 that while it is technically possible to raise the Ehime Maru, doing so would take six months and is likely to cost an estimated $40 million.

The environmental checks must first be completed before work can begin on the six-month process of raising the ship, meaning the salvage operation is unlikely to be completed before the end of this year.

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