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Atomic Energy Agency says release of Fukushima nuclear plant water meets standards

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IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visits TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant during an official visit to Japan in 2020. Photo Credit: D. Calma/IAEA

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station’s plans to release treated water into the Pacific Ocean are consistent with international safety standards. 

Some 1,000 tanks at the plant hold treated water remaining from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that damaged the Fukushima nuclear plant and killed more than 20,000 people. The nuclear plant’s cooling systems were damaged, causing three reactors to melt and their cooling water to be contaminated and leak continuously. 

The 1.3 million metric tons of on-site stored water containing radionuclides may be released in the coming weeks pending final approval. The water has already been treated for the removal of radioactive content, except for tritium, which cannot be removed by the plant’s Advanced Liquid Processing System, known as ALPS. 

Japanese officials have run out of room to store the huge amounts of Fukushima’s treated water.

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Recently, The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which operates the Fukushima plant, installed an outlet for an undersea tunnel dug to discharge the wastewater about one kilometre offshore.  

A new IAEA comprehensive safety report about the planned release is the result of nearly two years of work by an IAEA Task Force made up of top specialists from within the agency and advised by internationally recognized nuclear safety experts from 11 countries.

The IAEA report notes that “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.”

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi met with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida last week. He told concerned citizens that transparency would be upheld throughout the treated water release process and that he would set up a permanent office in the Japanese city of nearly 300,000 people.

“Your concerns are key to IAEA’s work,” Grossi announced at a conference, as he met with mayors, fishing associations and other local groups. “We’re here to listen, explain and ensure safety — and we’ll stay here true to our commitment before, during and after the treated water discharge,” he added.

In South Korea, residents have taken to the streets to protest the Fukushima treated water release plan, citing unknown risks. China, New Zealand and Australian officials have also expressed the need for further research into the potential impacts of releasing the Fukushima water into the Pacific Ocean.

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