Gov’t to pitch safety of Fukushima water release to S Korean experts

by May 10, 2023Featured Article, News

The Japanese government hopes to pitch the safety of a planned release of treated radioactive water into the sea from the disaster-hit Fukushima nuclear complex when South Korean experts visit the site later this month, the industry minister said Tuesday.

“We hope the inspection will help deepen understanding in South Korea of the safety of the release,” Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told a press conference after the two countries’ leaders agreed Sunday to dispatch the experts amid concerns among the South Korean public over the issue.

But Nishimura noted that the purpose of the inspection is “not to evaluate or certify the safety of treated water.”

The process of the water release, which is planned to begin around summer and continue for decades, as well as its possible environmental impact, is currently being reviewed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Radioactive water has accumulated at the Fukushima Daiichi plant on the Pacific coast amid the ongoing cleanup efforts following the nuclear disaster triggered by a massive quake and tsunami in 2011.

The water has been kept in over 1,000 tanks installed at the site after significantly reducing the radiation level of the liquid by running a treatment system that can remove most radioactive substances, except tritium. But the tanks are nearing capacity.

Nishimura said the South Korean experts, who will visit on May 23, will be offered explanations on the storage tanks and the progress of construction of the equipment used for dumping the water.

With the IAEA expected to release a comprehensive report about the findings in its review missions by June, the minister said Japan will continue to communicate with the international community, including South Korea, to increase transparency and seek support over the water release.

Japan has accepted inspections by officials of foreign delegates before, such as from the United States, Taiwan, and Pacific island nations, according to Nishimura.

The Japanese government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc plan to eject the treated water by diluting it with seawater to below one-40th of the concentration permitted under Japanese safety standards and release it 1 kilometer off the plant via an underwater pipeline.

Tritium is known to be less harmful to the human body than cesium and strontium. Nuclear power plants worldwide routinely release treated water containing low-level concentrations of tritium and other radionuclides into the environment as part of normal operations, according to the U.N. nuclear watchdog.