Tokyo, Jul 4 (EFE) – The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Tuesday endorsed the Japanese government’s plans to release treated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean, according to a report published on Tuesday by the United Nations-backed agency.
On 11 March 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi plant suffered major damage after a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami, making it the largest atomic accident since a reactor in the Chernobyl plant exploded in Ukraine in 1986.
“Based on its comprehensive assessment, the IAEA has concluded that the approach and activities to the discharge of ALPS treated water taken by Japan are consistent with relevant international safety standards,” IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement.
“Furthermore, the IAEA notes the controlled, gradual discharges of the treated water to the sea, as currently planned and assessed by TEPCO, would have a negligible radiological impact on people and the environment,” Grossi added in a foreword to the IAEA report.
The endorsement comes after a nuclear task force made up of IAEA experts had been working for nearly two years reviewing Japan’s plans to discharge over 1.32 million cubic meters of water that have accumulated at the Fukushima plant after the 2011 nuclear disaster.
Grossi said the report represented a “significant milestone in the IAEA’s review” but also warned that work had only just begun and that the agency would provide “transparency to the international community making it possible for all stakeholders to rely on verified fact and science to inform their understanding of this matter throughout the process.”
Despite these assurances, fishing cooperatives off the Fukushima coast remain steadfast in opposition to the spill, fearing that it will be a new blow to the reputation of local produce.
Concerns have also been raised on health and environmental grounds by neighboring China and South Korea, the Pacific Forum and Greenpeace.
The highly contaminated water generated by the power station has been processed by the plant’s Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), which removes most radioactive elements, except tritium — a radioisotope of hydrogen that is also naturally generated in the atmosphere.
The treated water is then returned to storage in drums before eventually being discharged into the sea.
This method of discharge was devised by Japanese authorities and TEPCO, the operator of the nuclear plant, to dispose of the processed water stored in more than a thousand tanks, but all storage capacity has been exhausted.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan would “sincerely” respond to the atomic agency’s review of his government’s plans to dispose of the treated water during a press conference after his meeting with Grossi, according to the state-backed Kyodo news agency.
“As for safely discharging the treated water, Japan will continue to provide detailed explanations to the international community with transparency, based on scientific evidence,” Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi added, Kyodo reported.
Grossi will visit the northeastern Japanese plant on Wednesday and launch an IAEA office nearby that will become active once the discharge plan commences.
The date for the release of treated water into the Pacific Ocean is yet to be confirmed.EFE