Tokyo, Sept 10, 2019 — Tokyo Electric Power will have to dump radioactive water from its destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant directly into the Pacific Ocean, Japan's environment minister said today.

After the plant was crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011, Tokyo Electric, or Tepco, has collected in tanks at the wrecked sites more than one million tons of contaminated water from the cooling pipes used to keep fuel cores from melting.

The utility says it will run out of space by 2022.

“The only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it,” Yoshiaki Harada told a news briefing in the capital. “The whole of the government will discuss this, but I would like to offer my simple opinion.”

A final government decision on disposing of the tainted water awaits a report from an expert panel.

Harada did not say how much water would need to be put into the ocean.

Tepco officials were not immediately available for comment.

Any green light to dump the waste into the sea, however, could anger neighbors such as South Korea, which summoned a senior Japanese embassy official last month to explain how the country would deal with the Fukushima water.

Ties between the East Asian nations are already at a low ebb following a compensation dispute over Koreans forced to work in Japanese factories in World War Two.

Coastal nuclear plants commonly dump into the ocean water that contains tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that is hard to separate and is considered to be relatively harmless.

Tepco, which also faces opposition from local fishermen, admitted last year that the water in its tanks still contained contaminants beside tritium. — Reuters

Although there had been speculation that Mattis might enter the political arena, he has since declined to share his views on Trump, saying it is inappropriate for military figures to pontificate on politics.

Mattis also said he was surprised by the news last weekend that Trump had invited Afghanistan's Taliban leaders for peace talks in the United States. Trump said he cancelled the talks after the insurgent group claimed responsibility for an attack in Kabul that killed an American soldier and 11 other people.

“I salute people who try to bring wars to an end,” Mattis said. The Taliban, however, had repeatedly failed to break with al Qaeda, the militant group behind the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, he said.

“The Taliban was offered: If you break with al Qaeda, we have no problem with you,” Mattis said. “President (George W.) Bush offered that, President Obama offered that, President Trump has offered that, and they've declined. So yes, I was very surprised that we were at that point.”

Asked yesterday whether he had confidence in Trump's leadership, he said only that he had “great confidence” in American voters and in the US Constitution.

“If we will employ our constitutional checks and balances correctly, this big experiment will continue,” Mattis said. — Reuters