3 overseas firms picked to help tackle Fukushima plant toxic water

Japan picked three overseas companies Tuesday to participate in a subsidized project to determine the best available technology for separating radioactive tritium from toxic water building up at the disaster-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Currently, Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the crippled plant, is test-running a system said to be capable of removing 62 types of radioactive substances from the contaminated water, but not tritium. Thus tritium-laced water is expected to accumulate at the plant in the absence of any method to remove it.

The three firms chosen from a total of 29 applicants are U.S. firm Kurion Inc., which offers technologies to treat nuclear and hazardous waste; GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Canada Inc., a joint venture of Japanese maker Hitachi Ltd. and U.S. firm General Electric Co.; and Federal State Unitary Enterprise RosRAO, a Russian radioactive waste management firm.

The government will provide up to 1 billion yen for each examination of the technologies and running costs, and consider whether any of them can be applied to treat water at the Fukushima complex, the industry ministry said.

The three companies will conclude their experiments by the end of March 2016 but it is unclear whether any of the technologies can be put to practical use at the Fukushima site as the endeavor is unprecedented, a ministry official said.

At the nuclear complex, highly radioactive water is generated in the process of cooling three reactors that suffered meltdowns in the nuclear disaster triggered by the March 2011 massive earthquake and tsunami.