By Ron Chen, Correspondent ASEAN Region
Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi welcomed Japan’s announcement that it has decided how to dispose of treated water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and he said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stands ready to provide technical support in monitoring and reviewing the plan’s safe and transparent implementation.
Japan’s chosen water disposal method is both technically feasible and in line with international practice, IAEA Director-General Grossi said. Controlled water discharges into the sea are routinely used by operating nuclear power plants in the world and in the region under specific regulatory authorisations based on safety and environmental impact assessments.
“Today’s decision by the Government of Japan is a milestone that will help pave the way for continued progress in the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant,” Grossi said. “Tanks with the water occupy large areas of the site, and water management, including the disposal of the treated water in a safe and transparent manner involving all stakeholders, is of key importance for the sustainability of these decommissioning activities.”
He added: “The Japanese Government’s decision is in line with practice globally, even though the large amount of water at the Fukushima plant makes it a unique and complex case.”
“Nuclear safety is a national responsibility and it was for the Government of Japan to decide how to address the critical issue of water management. I’m confident that the Government will continue to interact with all parties in a transparent and open way as it works to implement today’s decision,” Director-General Grossi said.
Japan has requested the IAEA’s cooperation in the disposal of the water by the IAEA dispatching international expert missions to review the country’s plans and activities against IAEA safety standards and supporting and being present at environmental monitoring operations there.
“We will work closely with Japan before, during and after the discharge of the water,” said Grossi, who visited the Fukushima nuclear power plant last year. “Our cooperation and our presence will help build confidence – in Japan and beyond – that the water disposal is carried out without an adverse impact on human health and the environment.”
The IAEA and Japan have been cooperating extensively over the past decade to deal with the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, in areas such as radiation monitoring, remediation, waste management and decommissioning.
Since the Director-General took office in December 2019, he has offered IAEA support related to the Fukushima water issue in meetings with senior Japanese officials, including then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during an official visit to the country in February 2020. Last month, he held a virtual meeting with Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshi Kajiyama.
The IAEA’s safety reviews, and other technical support, are based on its safety standards, which constitute the worldwide reference for protecting the public and the environment from harmful effects of ionizing radiation.