Experts to visit Fukushima plant to check water discharge plan

Industry and foreign ministries announced Monday, February 7, 2022, that a team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency will visit Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant next week to review plans to begin releasing millions of gallons of treated radioactive water into the sea, a mission the government hopes will keep people safe.

AP Photo/Hiro Komae, file

TOKYO (AP) — A team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency will visit Japan’s destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant next week to review plans to begin dumping more than a million tons of treated radioactive water in the sea, a mission the government hopes to assure people of the safety of the plans.

The team of about 15 experts will meet with government and utility officials during their Feb. 14-18 mission, which includes a visit to the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Ministry of Health officials said Monday. Industry.

The government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings announced plans last year to start gradually releasing the still-contaminated water in the spring of 2023 after further treatment and dilution. The water is stored in about 1,000 tanks in the factory which must be removed to allow the dismantling of the factory destroyed for decades. The tanks are expected to reach their capacity of 1.37 million tonnes later this year.

The plan was fiercely opposed by fishermen, local residents and Japan’s neighbors including China and South Korea.

Japan has asked the IAEA for help to ensure the release meets international safety standards and gain understanding from other countries. The team is expected to include several IAEA officials and an expert from each of the 11 countries, including South Korea and China, officials said.

A massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011 destroyed the cooling systems at the Fukushima power plant, causing three reactors to melt down and release large amounts of radiation, and prompting the evacuation of more than 160,000 people. Water used to cool the cores of highly radioactive reactors has since leaked extensively, mixing with groundwater seeping into reactor buildings.

Japanese officials say the only realistic option is to slowly release the contaminated water, diluted with seawater, into the ocean. The landfill is expected to take decades to complete.

Officials say that all of the isotopes selected for treatment can be reduced to low levels, except for tritium, which is inseparable from water but is harmless in small amounts.

The IAEA mission was originally scheduled for December but was delayed due to the global rise in the omicron coronavirus variant. The Japanese Ministry of Industry and the IAEA have agreed to produce an interim report on the water discharge plan in 2022.

Officials say it is now safe to live in most areas around the plant, except for its immediate surroundings after extensive decontamination work. They blame “reputational damage”, or incorrect information about the impact of radiation, for delaying the recovery of Fukushima’s agricultural and fishing industries.

Six people recently filed a lawsuit seeking compensation from TEPCO for thyroid cancers they say were caused by radiation from the crash. About 300 people who were children at the time have since developed the disease.

On January 27, five former Japanese prime ministers issued a joint statement urging the European Commission to reverse its decision to include nuclear energy as an “environmentally sustainable economic activity” in the EU taxonomy, noting the tragedy of Fukushima and thyroid cancer in many children there.

Government officials have repeatedly denied links between thyroid cancer in Fukushima and the accident and accused the former leaders of spreading “false information and unjustified discrimination and bias”.

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