Unplanned Events

Fukushima-Daiichi / IAEA Welcomes ‘Significant Progress’ On Water Discharge Plans

By David Dalton
2 May 2022

Authorities have identified next steps scheduled for 2023
IAEA Welcomes ‘Significant Progress’ On Water Discharge Plans
Storage tanks at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station site in Japan. Courtesy Dean Calma/IAEA.
Japan has made significant progress as it prepares to discharge treated water from the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station into the ocean, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in its first report on the project.

The report summarises overall progress in the technical preparations for the water discharge. It compiles the initial findings from the IAEA task force’s first review mission to Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), operator of the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station, and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (Meti) in February 2022.

IAEA director-general Rafael Grossi welcomed the initial findings and said the task force was satisfied that Tepco and Meti have identified the appropriate next steps for the water discharge scheduled for 2023. “The work will continue so the task force can provide its conclusions before the discharge,” Mr Grossi said.

The report is the first in a series of reports as the task force carries out more missions to Japan in the coming months and years to assess the water discharge against IAEA safety standards.

In April 2021 Japan announced its policy to gradually discharge more than 1.25 million cubic metres of treated water into the sea, subject to approval from the NRA, an independent regulatory body.

It asked for the IAEA’s assistance to help ensure the project’s implementation. 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.

In part used to cool melted nuclear fuel, the water has been treated through a filtration process known as advanced liquid processing system Alps to reduce the radioactivity before being stored in tanks.

Space for the tanks is running out and the long-term management of the treated water is necessary to allow for the further decommissioning of the Fukushima-Daiichi station.

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.

Japan intends to release the water with levels of tritium – the only radionuclide that cannot be removed through this treatment – well below national regulatory limits and World Health Organisation standards for drinking water.

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