The industry minister on Wednesday urged Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to ensure radioactive water leaks do not reoccur following an incident earlier this month at its disaster-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Ken Saito told TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa that he wanted "management to take active steps to prevent a recurrence and ensure safety," after around 1.5 tons of water leaked from the complex, which suffered reactor fuel meltdowns in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

Saito said that the incident has "caused anxiety in Japan and abroad and will hinder the completion of the decommissioning of the plant," calling on TEPCO to investigate any possible factors that led to human error and to invest in technology that eliminates the need for manual operation.

Kobayakawa offered his apologies, saying, "I will take the lead and assume responsibility for investment" in safety measures.

Photo taken on Feb. 21, 2024, shows Tomoaki Kobayakawa (far L), president of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., at a meeting with Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Ken Saito (far R) in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

The president said he would reconfirm equipment and procedures that were swiftly put in place following the 2011 nuclear crisis, adding that he would also consider upgrading technology.

The incident occurred months after Japan began releasing treated radioactive water from the crippled power station into the sea amid concerns over safety. The power company sees the discharge as an integral part of the decommissioning.

Since August last year, TEPCO has discharged a total of 23,400 tons of water treated through an advanced liquid processing system capable of removing most radionuclides, except tritium, and plans to begin the release of the final batch for fiscal 2023 in late February.

According to the plant operator, the leak occurred on the morning of Feb. 7 from an outlet connected to a device to treat contaminated water that has been accumulating at the complex.

Human error was deemed as the cause of the incident, as 10 out of the 16 valves of the device that should have been closed were open.

In October, an incident occurred at the nuclear plant in which workers were exposed to liquid waste containing radioactive materials.

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