Fukushima water released without technical concerns, IAEA says

An aerial photo of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima Prefecture on April 7, 2021. FILE PHOTO

Japan’s release of treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant into the sea is “progressing as planned and without any technical concerns,” the UN nuclear watchdog has said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) wrapped up its safety review Friday, two months after the discharge began at the northeastern Japan complex devastated by a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011. It plans to compile a report on its latest four-day mission by year-end.

The IAEA safety review “will continue to proceed in an independent, objective, science-based and transparent manner, during the discharge and after” it said on its website.

Seven IAEA officials and experts from nine of the 11 task force member countries, including China and Russia — which have criticised the release and imposed import bans on Japanese seafood — took part in the review mission, which involved an on-site inspection of the water treatment and discharge facilities at the nuclear complex.

During their stay, the members of the mission also exchanged opinions with officials of the Japanese government, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. and the Nuclear Regulation Authority over the operation of the discharge facility at the plant and environmental monitoring procedures.

Since August, the plant operator has ejected about 15,600 tons of water treated with a liquid processing system that removes most radionuclides except tritium. The tritium is diluted with seawater, leaving it with a concentration level one-fortieth of that permitted under Japanese safety standards, before it is discharged.

Meanwhile, Japan’s industry ministry on Tuesday held a tour for foreign ambassadors and others to visit an interim storage facility for soil collected during decontamination work following the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident.

The tour was attended by embassy officials and media representatives from 34 countries, including the ambassadors of Guatemala, Uruguay, Ethiopia and Uganda.

They inspected the facility, located in the towns of Okuma and Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture, viewing piled-up bags of soil from decontamination work and high ground made from such soil while listening to explanations.

“I have seen the efforts to rebuild Fukushima, the efforts to treat water, to treat the soil, and bring life back to Fukushima,” Ugandan Ambassador to Japan Tophace Kaahwa told reporters after the visit. “We hope the tour will help other countries better understand the current state of reconstruction and make them feel that Fukushima is an attractive location for domestic and foreign companies,” said an official of the industry ministry.

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