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ALERT -- Fukushima dumps first batch of 'once-radioactive' water in sea...

ALERT -- Fukushima dumps first batch of 'once-radioactive' water in sea...

Tokyo (AFP)

Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant Monday began releasing previously contaminated water into the sea, but the man tasked with preventing another meltdown warned other highly radioactive fluid still stored on site could pose a major threat.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), which operates the plant in eastern Japan, discharged 850 tons of formerly contaminated water it had extracted from the ground near the plant into the sea, saying a filtration process had now made it safe.

Monday was the first time the plant, whose reactors went into meltdown after being hit by a huge tsunami in 2011, has released once radioactive water into nature after a years-long battle with fishermen, who feared it could destroy their livelihood.

But Dale Klein, the chairman of a committee created to ensure the nuclear meltdown is never repeated, said other highly radioactive water used to cool the reactors four years ago and which is still kept in tanks in the plant could be dangerous.

"The risk that you run is that you have all these tanks full of water," Klein told AFP in an interview.

"The longer you store the water, the more likely you are going to have (an) uncontrolled release," he said, adding that he would like to see the supplies released from storage in the next three years.

TEPCO has faced criticism for its handling of the meltdown, which saw thousands of people evacuated as radiation poisoned the air, land and water and has already cost some $57 billion in compensation for residents.

Four years later it is still extracting some 300 tons of contaminated water from the ground every day, which had been stored in tanks before TEPCO started releasing it into the sea after purification on Monday.

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