Japanese Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada has said he thinks the only way to stop the buildup of wastewater that is contaminated with radioactive tritium at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is to release it into the sea.
There has always been a plan to dump the water in to the Pacific ocean and the Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada has now said that he supports the plan.
To cool fuel cores at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, operator Tokyo Electric has pumped in tens of thousands of tons of water over the years, according to Japanese national broadcaster NHK.
"The Japanese government has been presented with technical options, including from U.S. nuclear companies, for removing radioactive tritium from the contaminated water - so far it has chosen for financial and political reasons to ignore these".
Harada, who is expected to leave the cabinet in a reshuffle Wednesday, said "there is no other option than to release it (into the sea) and dilute it". A final government decision on disposing of the tainted water awaits a report from an expert panel.
Tepco officials were not immediately available for comment.
Many scientists say the water would quickly be diluted in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, and that tritium poses a low risk to human and animal health.
Tritiated water is, in fact, a routine by-product of nuclear plants worldwide, which dilute and release it into open waters.
He added that when the government decides it will explain the decision to the worldwide community in a transparent manner in order to gain understanding.
"We're just hoping to hear more details of the discussions that are under way in Tokyo so that there won't be a surprise announcement", a South Korean diplomat told Reuters, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of bilateral ties.
In response, South Korea's foreign ministry said that the remarks are not Japan's official stance, adding that the Seoul government is keeping a close watch on Tokyo's movements.
"The government must commit to the only environmentally acceptable option for managing this water crisis, which is long-term storage and processing to remove radioactivity, including tritium".