Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency have asked Japan for full and detailed information on a plan to discharge treated but still radioactive water from the wreckage of the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.
The three-member team, which is assisting Japan with the planned release, met with government officials on Tuesday to discuss technical details before heading to the Fukushima Daiichi plant for an on-site review on Wednesday. They will meet with Japanese experts until Friday.
Lydie Evrard, head of the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, said transparency and full disclosure of water and its treatment are essential to ensure the safety of the project, which is expected to take decades. .
The government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings announced in April their intention to begin releasing water in the spring of 2023 so that hundreds of the plant’s storage tanks can be removed to make way for other facilities necessary for its decommissioning.
The idea was fiercely opposed by fishermen, local residents and neighbors of Japan, including China and South Korea.
TEPCO plans to send the water through an underwater tunnel and discharge it from a location about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) from the coastal power plant after treating and diluting it with large amounts. seawater to bring it below the discharge limits.
Evrard said his team wanted to monitor the release to ensure it meets IAEA radiation protection and environmental safety standards, and offered a discussion of monitoring methods and other details.
Government and TEPCO officials say tritium, which is not harmful in small amounts, cannot be removed from water, but all other isotopes selected for processing can be reduced to safe levels. Controlled release of tritium from normal nuclear power plants is a common global practice, officials say.
The IAEA and Japanese officials discussed methods of monitoring tritium on Tuesday.
Japan requested the IAEA’s assistance to ensure that the release meets safety standards and to gain the understanding of the international community.
Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama told reporters on Tuesday that the IAEA’s participation would help build confidence in the Japanese effort. He said Japan will cooperate fully.
A massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011 severely damaged three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, causing contaminated cooling water to leak. The water has been stored in around 1,000 tanks which the plant operator says will reach capacity by the end of next year.
The Japanese authorities say that the removal of water is necessary for the decommissioning of the plant and that its discharge into the ocean is the most realistic option.