Japan has deferred a decision to release treated radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant site into the sea, in face of strong opposition from fishermen.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama told a news conference that the government has no plan to announce a decision on what to do with more than 1.2 million tons of treated contaminated water stored at the site.

His remarks came after government sources said a decision on release of the water would be taken on 27 October. “We are not at a stage where we can announce the specific timing of a decision” on how to deal with the stored water, Kajiyama said, adding, “We want to proceed with the matter carefully.”

The water used to cool the damaged reactors at Fukushima Daiichi has been treated using an advanced liquid processing system (ALPS) to remove all radioactive material apart from tritium. The treated water is currently stored in more than 1000 large tanks on the Fukushima Daiichi site. However, the complex is expected to run out of water storage capacity by the summer of 2022, with contaminated water increasing by about 170 tons a day.

Kajiyama said there was a need for more talks to address the concerns expressed by local citizens, municipalities and related organisations. Other ministries, including those overseeing reconstruction from the 2011 disaster and the fisheries industry, called for thorough measures to address the repercussions of releasing the stored water. The government has so far convened seven meetings on the issue since April, hearing opinions from representatives of 29 organisations.

It has also received 4011 public opinions, with about 2700 expressing concerns about the treated water’s impact on human health and around 1400 voicing wariness over the decision-making process.

International Atomic Energy Agency director general Rafael Grossi, during his visit to the plant in February, said the release of the treated water into the sea meets global standards of practice in the industry.

This is a common way to release water at nuclear power plants across the globe, even when they are not in emergency situations, he noted.