The IAEA says the Fukushima water release meets safety standards

The IAEA says the Fukushima water release meets safety standards


TOKYO — The head of a UN nuclear agency task force assessing the safety of Japan’s plan to dump treated radioactive water into the sea from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant said Friday that Japanese regulators have shown their commitment to upholding international safety standards.

International concern about the plan has increased. Last week, the leader of the 18-nation Pacific Islands Forum, which includes Australia, New Zealand and other island nations, expressed concern about the impact of radiation from the water on the livelihoods of people in the region who have suffered from nuclear weapons in the past bomb tests and asked Japan to suspend the plan.

“The region maintains its position that there should be no discharge until all parties have confirmed by scientific means that such a discharge is safe,” Forum Secretary-General Henry Puna said at a public seminar on the Fukushima issue .

The US National Association of Marine Laboratories, an organization of more than 100 laboratories, also opposed the plan, saying it lacked adequate and accurate scientific data to support Japan’s claims of safety.

Gustavo Caruso, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s task force, said his team visited the damaged Fukushima Daiichi power plant this week and witnessed the first in a series of inspections by Japan’s nuclear regulator before giving it the final go-ahead. He said agency officials answered all questions raised by the task force and showed their commitment to maintaining safety standards.

The Japanese government said last week that release will likely begin sometime in the spring or summer and last for decades.

Japanese regulators are responsible for verifying that plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings’ preparations for clearance are consistent with its approved implementation plan.

At the request of Japan, the IAEA is examining whether the reparations for the discharge meet international standards.

A major earthquake and tsunami in 2011 destroyed the cooling systems of the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant, melting three reactors and releasing large amounts of radiation. Water used to cool the three damaged reactor cores, which remains highly radioactive, leaked into the basements of the reactor buildings and was collected, treated, and stored in about 1,000 tanks that now cover much of the facility.

The government and TEPCO say the tanks must be removed so facilities can be built to decommission the plant. The tanks are expected to reach their capacity of 1.37 million tons this year.

Most of the radioactivity is removed from the water during treatment, but tritium cannot be removed and small concentrations of some other radionuclides also remain. The government and TEPCO say the environmental and health impacts will be negligible as the water is gradually released after further treatment and dilution by large volumes of seawater.

Some scientists say the effects of long-term, low-dose exposure to tritium and other radionuclides on the environment and humans are still unknown, and releases should be delayed. They say tritium affects humans more when consumed in fish.

Local fishing communities have fiercely opposed the plan, saying their already battered business will suffer again due to the negative image created by the water release. Neighboring countries like China and South Korea have also raised concerns about possible health risks.

Caruso, who heads the IAEA’s nuclear safety and security division, said the task force would release a report on this week’s mission within three months and revisit Japan in the second quarter of the year to meet with Japan’s industry ministry, the Ministry of Security , to meet with Authority and TEPCO to “close all outstanding issues” before preparing a comprehensive report.

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