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First phase of Fukushima water release to end on Sept 11

TOKYO – The first phase of releasing treated water from Fukushima that has angered China will end on Monday as planned, the stricken nuclear plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), said.

It added that the levels of radioactive tritium found in seawater samples taken from near the plant in north-east Japan were within safe limits, according to a statement late on Thursday.

On Aug 24, Japan began discharging into the Pacific some of the 1.34 million tonnes of treated water that has collected since a tsunami crippled the facility in 2011.

Japan insists that the discharge is safe, a view backed by the United Nations atomic agency, but China has banned all seafood imports from its neighbour, accusing it of treating the sea like a “sewer”.

Tepco announced that the first phase – in which 7,800 tonnes of the water would be discharged – would end on Sept 11, but gave no date for the start of the second discharge.

“After completion of the first discharge, we will conduct an inspection of (the) entire… water dilution/discharge facility, and review the operational records from the first discharge,” it said.

It added that a “leak alarm” sounded on Wednesday in a waste water transfer line, but that no leak was detected.

Staff “quickly conducted a field inspection in accordance with safety check procedures, and it was confirmed that there was no leak of… treated water”, the statement said.

The water – which could fill 540 Olympic-size pools – was used to cool the three reactors that went into meltdown in 2011, in one of the world’s worst nuclear catastrophes.

Japan says that all radioactive elements have been filtered out except tritium, the levels of which are within safe limits and below that released by nuclear plants in normal operations around the world.

The release, which is expected to take decades to complete, is aimed at making space to begin removing the highly dangerous radioactive fuel and rubble from the wrecked reactors.

Last week, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida publicly ate fish from Fukushima in an effort to reassure consumers, as did the US Ambassador to Japan in a show of support.

On Monday, the goverment also beefed up an aid package for the fishing sector following the seafood import ban by China, Japan’s biggest export market for fish. AFP

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