Japan has put off a decision to release treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea, government sources said Friday, after reports of a formal decision later this month triggered strong opposition from fishermen.
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama told a press conference Friday the government has no plan to make a decision on what to do with over 1.2 million tons of treated water as reported.
His remark came after other government sources said last week it would decide on the release of the water on Tuesday. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said last month, during a visit to the Fukushima Daiichi plant which suffered meltdowns following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, that the government wants "to make a decision as soon as possible" on how to deal with the water.
"We are not at a stage where we can announce the specific timing of a decision" on how to deal with the stored water, Kajiyama said, adding, "We want to proceed with the matter carefully."
The water used to cool the damaged reactors has been treated using an advanced liquid processing system, or ALPS, to remove all radioactive material apart from tritium and is stored in tanks on the plant's premises.
The Fukushima complex is expected to run out of water storage capacity by the summer of 2022, with contaminated water increasing by about 170 tons per day.
Several participants at a government meeting convened Friday to discuss what to do with the water said thorough measures are needed to address reputational damage to the fishery sector expected as a result of releasing the water into the environment.
Kajiyama, who chaired the meeting, said, "There is a need to further deepen our discussions" in addressing the concerns expressed by local citizens, municipalities and related organizations.
Participants from other ministries including those overseeing reconstruction from the 2011 disaster and the fisheries industry called for thorough measures to address the repercussions of releasing the stored water.
The government has so far convened seven meetings on the issue since April, hearing opinions from representatives of 29 organizations.
It has also received 4,011 public opinions, with about 2,700 expressing concerns about the treated water's impact on human health and around 1,400 casting doubt on the process of decision making.
South Korea, which currently bans imports of seafood from the area, has also repeatedly voiced concern about the environmental impact.
The International Atomic Energy Agency's Director General Rafael Grossi said during his visit to the plant in February that the release of the treated water into the sea meets global standards of practice in the industry.
This is a common way to release water at nuclear power plants across the globe, even when they are not in emergency situations, he said at the time.