Japan has begun dumping more than 11.5 million litres of radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific.
The water, which is estimated to be 100 times more radioactive than the legal limit, is being released to create space for even more heavily contaminated water that has built up around the plant.
The government seems prepared to count on increasingly desperate measures.
"We have no choice but to release water tainted with radioactive materials into the ocean as a safety measure," said Yukio Edano, Japan's chief cabinet secretary.
The water being poured into the ocean includes 10 million litres sprayed over the plant to stop four of the six nuclear reactors overheating.
A further 1.5 million litres is being pumped out from pits below two other reactors, which engineers say is hindering access to the cooling systems.
"There is a need to release already stored water in order to accept the additional waste water," said a spokesman for the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the plant's operators. Tepco said that the release of radioactive water would pose no health risks to humans, since it would dilute swiftly.
Engineers are considering building new storage tanks and a pond. They are also planning to build a giant silk curtain in the ocean near the plant to contain contamination, the latest in a string of desperate measures that are being taken.
Powdered bath salts were being used to turn water a milky white to help trace the source of radioactive water that had leaked into the soil. Earlier, sawdust and newspapers were mixed with polymers and cement, in a vain attempt to seal the cracks from where water was leaking.
Three weeks after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and massive tsunami hit northeast Japan, sending some of Daiichi's reactors into partial meltdown, engineers are no closer to regaining control of the power plant or stopping radioactive leaks.
The quake and tsunami left nearly 28,000 people dead or missing and Japan's northeast coast a wreck.
The world's costliest natural disaster has caused power blackouts and cuts to supply chains and business hours. It is threatening economic growth, while a recent opinion poll suggested voters want embattled prime minister Naoto Kan to form a coalition in order to steer Japan through its worst crisis since World War Two. (© Daily Telegraph, London)