The Fukushima nuclear plant is going to run out of room soon to store radioactive water that keeps building up. Solution: Japan will build an undersea tunnel and starting pumping the tainted water into the ocean, reports AFP. The water will be treated to remove most, though not all, of its radioactivity. Under the plan, the tunnel will be encased in concrete and run more than a half mile from the plant into the ocean. The government says all will be safe because the ocean will dilute what remains of the radioactivity, though fishing communities who ply those waters say the perception alone will hurt them economically.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, acknowledges the concern but says the decision to encase the pipe in concrete is designed to ease "reputational damage," per the AP. Neighboring nations such as China and South Korea also have voiced concerns. The International Atomic Energy Agency has signed off on the plan, and TEPCO hopes to have the tunnel ready by the spring of 2023. The water—including water that was used to cool the plant after it was crippled in a 2011 tsunami—is currently being held in storage tanks.
However, the amount keeps increasing because of rain and groundwater, and those tanks need to go as part of a larger plan to decommission the entire plant by 2051. Three decades may seem like a long time, but an official with IAEA says it may not be long enough, because too little is known about melted fuel inside the plant's damaged reactors, per the AP. "Honestly speaking, I don't know, and I don't know if anybody knows," said Christophe Xerri when asked about the prospects of making the deadline. He called on Japan to conduct more studies of the reactors. (Read more Fukushima Dai-ichi stories.)