Japan to start Fukushima water release

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Japan has decided it will start releasing massive amounts of treated radioactive water stored in tanks at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant in two years.

The decision, long speculated but delayed for years due to safety concerns and protests, came on Tuesday at a meeting of Cabinet which endorsed the release as the best option.

The water has been accumulated and stored in tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant since its 2011 meltdown after a massive earthquake and tsunami, causing cooling water to leak from the damaged reactors.

Its operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, says its storage capacity will be full by autumn 2022.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told the ministers' meeting the government adopted the release to sea as "most realistic" and the disposal of the water is "unavoidable in order to achieve Fukushima's recovery".

TEPCO and government officials say tritium, which is not harmful in small amounts, cannot be removed from the water but all other selected radionuclides can be reduced to levels allowed for release.

Some scientists say the long-term impact on marine life from low-dose exposure to such large volumes of water is unknown.

Under a report of the basic plan adopted by the ministers on Tuesday, TEPCO will start releasing the water in about two years after building a facility under the regulatory authority's safety requirements.