On Monday, a delegation from the United Nations Nuclear Agency came in Japan to review preparations for the release of cleaned radioactive water from the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea.
According to Japanese officials, experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency will meet with Japanese officials and visit the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility to examine technical details of the scheduled release.
In April, the government and the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, announced plans to begin progressively releasing the treated radioactive water in the spring of 2023, allowing hundreds of storage tanks to be removed to make place for decommissioning facilities.
Fishermen, local people, and Japan’s neighbours, including China and South Korea, have all spoken out against the idea.
Japan has asked the IAEA for help in ensuring that the discharge complies with international safety requirements and gaining international acceptance. Next month, a larger 11-member IAEA mission is scheduled.
Last week, Japanese Economy and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda promised that Japan will “in a courteous and transparent manner” convey the results of the IAEA reviews to the international community.
Earlier this year, a separate IAEA taskforce on water testing collected fish samples from the Fukushima coast as part of a normal evaluation, as well as providing technical assistance for the plant’s decommissioning. A South Korean expert was part of the squad.
The cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were knocked out by a huge earthquake and tsunami in 2011, resulting in the meltdown of three reactors. Large volumes of water required to cool the still extremely radioactive reactor cores have spilled significantly since then. The tainted water is being held in approximately 1,000 tanks, which are scheduled to fill up next year.
Officials in Japan say the water must be removed in order for the facility to be decommissioned, and that dumping it into the ocean is the most practical alternative.
Tritium, which is not hazardous in small concentrations, cannot be eliminated from the water, according to government and TEPCO authorities, but all other isotopes chosen for treatment may be reduced to acceptable levels. Officials claim that the controlled emission of tritium from regular nuclear facilities is a common practise around the world.
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