In a statement sure to agitate already frustrated local fishing groups, the International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday said Fukushima may release treated radioactive water into the ocean waters.
"Common practice is to treat contaminated water as much as possible...and then release it into the environment," Yukiya Amano, Director General of IAEA, said in a Tokyo news conference.
The Fukushima nuclear power plant got crippled by a tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9 strong earthquake in March 2011. Since then, its operator Tokyo Electric Power Co has struggled to enclose the leaking radioactive water. The site has numerous tanks holding radioactive water, each holding hundreds of tonnes of radioactive water.
Continued storage of the contaminated water is not a realistic strategy. "It is not a viable option to store the contaminated water without limit on the ground. It can even pose some dangers," Mr Amano said.
At least about 400 metric tonnes a day of highly contaminated water is created at the plant. Mr Amano however noted the agency's recommendation is "not a long-term solution."
"In order to avoid the potential difficulties, we recommend Japan to consider the option to release the water after treating it properly, ensuring that it satisfies the Japanese standard after consulting with the stakeholders like the local community," he said.
Although no one died as a direct result of the atomic accident three years ago, some 1,656 residents of Fukushima died due to complications related to stress and other conditions. Tens of thousands were also forced to evacuate the area.
Mr Amano said the Fukushima accident prompted every nuclear power plant developer to improve safety conditions.
"What's important for our safety is an evolving process - we need to improve safety continuously without... falling into complacency," he told the press briefing. "But any natural disaster can happen in any part of the world... there is no 100 per cent safety in the real world."