Waste Management

Fukushima-Daiichi / IAEA, Japan Agree On Timeline For Safety Review Of Water Release

By David Dalton
9 September 2021

Agency team in country to meet senior officials and visit nuclear site
IAEA, Japan Agree On Timeline For Safety Review Of Water Release
The Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station site in northern Japan. Courtesy IAEA.
The International Atomic Energy Agency and Japan have agreed on an initial schedule and other arrangements for the implementation of the agency’s multi-year review and monitoring of the safety of the planned release of treated water into the Pacific Ocean from the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station.

Japan is expected to start discharging the treated water in 2023 with the first of a series of IAEA preparatory technical onsite review missions to take place later this year. The IAEA’s special taskforce for the water disposal will meet in the coming weeks to prepare the reviews.

An IAEA team, led by Lydie Evrard, IAEA deputy director-general and head of the department of nuclear safety and security, met senior officials in Japan this week to begin the review process and agree on the timeline, the preliminary scope of each mission, and other details.

During a 7–9 September visit to Japan, the IAEA team met senior government officials and agreed on the three main parts of the IAEA review: safety related aspects, regulatory activities and environmental monitoring.

The IAEA team travelled to the Fukushima-Daiichi site on Wednesday to gain an updated understanding of the situation by observing onsite activities and visiting key locations that will feature within the review project.

The agency’s assistance to Japan will consist of reviews and monitoring to help confirm that the operation to discharge the water over the coming decades is consistent with international safety standards. This review will be based in particular on material submitted by Japan, and onsite technical missions to Japan.

In April, Japan confirmed it would release treated water from Fukushima-Daiichi into the Pacific, a move which was welcomed by the IAEA as both technically feasible and in line with international practice.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the station’s operator, will build equipment to dilute and release the water, which has accumulated since three reactors melted down during the 2011 tsunami that overwhelmed the facility. Discharges will start in about two years, subject to final approval by nuclear regulators.

Japanese authorities said there was no practical alternative to releasing the water as storage space ran out. They said there was no risk to human health and that operating nuclear plants around the world release similar water every day.

Five disposal methods for the water were being considered by the government: controlled discharge into the sea, ground injection, discharge as steam, discharge as hydrogen, and solidification for underground burial.

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