Authorities in Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture on Tuesday approved a plan by the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to release its contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean.

Following a consultative meeting with representatives from the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), and national atomic energy research institutions, the prefecture’s officials decided to back TEPCO’s scheme.

“The governor of Fukushima Prefecture invited suggestions on the water discharging plan, and decided to discuss it at the consultative meeting. The meeting today was focused on that topic. All the specific details and aspects have been confirmed at the meeting,” said Tetsuya Hasegawa, head of the prefecture’s Living and Environment Department.

TEPCO issued a press release two hours after the meeting that said they would begin dumping the first 560 tons of contaminated water on Wednesday morning.

The issue of contaminated water is one of the most serious problems facing the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Since the earthquake-triggered disaster at the plant on March 11, 2013, vast amounts of water have been used to cool the nuclear reactors and thus created an incredible sum of contaminated waste water.

About 400 tons of contaminated water has seeped into the groundwater under the plant, and the plant’s water reservoir is almost full. TEPCO therefore proposed a plan to extract the contaminated water before it overflows underground, and to release it into the sea.

Japanese atomic researchers tested the groundwater in the area, and found that the concentration of radioactive substances contained in the water remained below normal levels.

TEPCO came under fire last year after it emerged that they were aware of radioactive water from Fukushima leaking into the sea, but chose not to publicize the information for more than a month.

Fukushima authorities said they would require TEPCO to strictly follow the set safety standards, with a high degree of transparency.

“Carrying out the plan is not our first priority, and we are not going to launch the plan unless we are sure that everything is ready,” said Naohiro Masuda, representative of TEPCO.

The move to dump the huge amount of toxic water was unavoidable, TEPCO said, due to the massive volumes of contaminated water building up and failing to be decontaminated and maintained inside the complex.

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