FUKUSHIMA - A local fishermen’s organization decided Tuesday to allow Tokyo Electric Power Co. to dump groundwater from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex into the sea on condition that the water meets certain decontamination standards.
The measure is expected to slow the pace of toxic water buildup at the plant. Groundwater will be pumped up before it gets mixed with highly radioactive water accumulating in the basements of reactor buildings and directed to the Pacific Ocean.
Amid concerns that the move could harm the marine environment, Tepco said in February that it will set stringent safety criteria. For example, the density of radioactive tritium in the water should not exceed one-fortieth of the legal limit.
But it is not clear whether the so-called groundwater bypass system will operate smoothly, as the plant has been plagued by various problems linked to management of the toxic water.
On Tuesday, the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations submitted a petition that calls on Tepco and the government to make sure that the water released into the Pacific is below the required radiation levels.
Highly radioactive water is increasing by about 400 tons a day at the plant because that volume of groundwater is seeping into the basements of reactor buildings and mixing with water used to cool the three reactors that suffered meltdowns in 2011.
By operating the groundwater bypass system, Tepco says it can reduce the amount of water seeping into the reactor buildings by about 100 tons per day.
Tepco finished installing a dozen wells in March last year to pump up uncontaminated groundwater. But the utility has not been able to discharge groundwater up to now amid local reluctance.
Tepco also plans to start building from June a huge underground ice wall around the reactor buildings to block the entry of groundwater.
Since the start of the crisis, local fishermen have been facing safety concerns over their catches.