Fukushima Water Waste Decision Could Come Before Tokyo Olympics

In this Oct. 12, 2017, photo, ever-growing amount of contaminated, treated but still slightly radioactive, water at the wrecked Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is stored in about 900 huge tanks, including those seen in this photo taken during a plant tour at Fukushima Daiichi Nu

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Fukushima Water Waste Decision Could Come Before Tokyo Olympics

Japanese officials say a decision on how to deal with radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant could come before the Tokyo Olympics begin in July.

The Tokyo Electric Company, or TEPCO, operates Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant. Three reactors there suffered meltdowns after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami shut the plant’s cooling systems. The accident forced 160,000 people to flee contaminated areas around the plant.

TEPCO officials recently guided a Reuters reporter around the plant, which covers about 3.5 million square meters in northeast Japan. The reporter described large cranes being used to break up major parts of the plant’s structure. The reporter also described operations aimed at removing spent fuel from a reactor.

Overall, about 4,000 people are taking part in the cleanup effort, Reuters reported. Some Olympic events are set to take place within 60 kilometers of the destroyed plant, Reuters said.

One major part of the cleanup has involved treating and storing contaminated water from the area. TEPCO has predicted that Fukushima will run out of all its storage space for water by 2022.

Workers are seen near storage tanks for radioactive water at Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan January 15, 2020. Picture taken January 15, 2020. (REUTERS/Aar

A government group studying future storage solutions said last month that it had decided on two main possible solutions. One solution is to treat the water and then control its release into the Pacific Ocean. The other would be to let the water evaporate.

Japanese experts say the government may decide on a solution within the next few months. Either process is expected to take years to complete.

Joji Hara is a Tokyo-based spokesman for the power company. He told Reuters that TEPCO has already been making preparations to inform the public about any developments related to Fukushima.

“The Olympics are coming, so we have to prepare for that, and TEPCO has to disclose all the information - not only to local communities but also to foreign countries and especially to those people coming from abroad,” Hara said.

A Tokyo 2020 banner stands in front of the Azuma Baseball Stadium, a venue for baseball and softball at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019, in Fukushima, Fukushima prefecture, Japan. The torch relay for the Tokyo Olympics will kick off…

He added that TEPCO had already opened English-language Twitter and Facebook accounts for that purpose. TEPCO is also preparing to put out emergency information in Korean and Chinese, Hara said.

Reuters reported that athletes from at least one country -- South Korea -- have said they plan to bring their own radiation detectors and food during the Olympics.

Olympic baseball and softball games will be played in Fukushima City, about 60 kilometers from the nuclear plant.

Storage tanks for radioactive water are seen at Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, Feb. 18, 2019.

The Olympic torch will be carried through a sports center called J-Village. The center served as an operations base for the Fukushima nuclear plant during the first years after the disaster. The torch will then pass through areas near the destroyed power station on its way to Tokyo.

Last month, the environmental group Greenpeace said it found radiation “hotspots” at J-Village, about 18 kilometers south of the plant.

When Tokyo was chosen for the 2020 Summer Olympics, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared that Fukushima was “under control” and would not affect activities related to the Games.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Reuters reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

contaminated adj. having been made impure by a poisonous or polluting substance

crane n. a large machine used for lifting and moving heavy things

evaporate v. turn from a liquid into a vapor

disclose v. to provide information about something

account n. an arrangement in which a person uses internet or service of a particular company

abroad n. in or to a foreign country

athlete n. a person who is trained in or is good at sports, games, or exercises that require physical skill and strength

detector n. piece of equipment used to discover something

torch n. a long stick with material at the top that burns