TOKYO (AP) – A team from the United Nations nuclear agency arrived in Japan on Monday to assess preparations for the release into the ocean of radioactive treated water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency team will meet with Japanese officials and visit the Fukushima Daiichi plant to discuss the technical details of the planned release, Japanese officials said.
The government and plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, announced in April plans to begin phasing out the treated radioactive water in the spring of 2023 to allow for the removal of hundreds of storage tanks to make room. to the structures necessary for the dismantling of the destroyed plant.
The plan was fiercely opposed by fishermen, local residents and neighbors of Japan, including China and South Korea.
Japan has requested assistance from the IAEA to ensure that the discharge meets international safety standards and to gain understanding from the international community. A larger IAEA mission, consisting of 11 members, is planned for next month.
Japanese Economy and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda promised last week that Japan will explain the outcome of the IAEA reviews to the international community “in a courteous and transparent manner.”
A separate IAEA water testing task force previously collected fish samples from the Fukushima coast as part of a routine review along with technical assistance for decommissioning the facility. The team included an expert from South Korea.
A major earthquake and tsunami in 2011 knocked out the cooling systems of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, causing three reactors to melt. Since then, large amounts of water used to cool the still highly radioactive reactor cores have leaked widely. Contaminated water is stored in around 1,000 reservoirs which are expected to reach their capacity next year.
Japanese officials say the water must be removed to allow the plant to be dismantled and that its release into the ocean is the most realistic option.
Government and TEPCO officials say tritium, which is not harmful in small amounts, cannot be removed from water, but all other isotopes selected for treatment can be reduced to safe levels. Controlled release of tritium from normal nuclear power plants is a routine global practice, officials say.