| 17 April 2024, Wednesday |

Fukushima nuclear plant water release is safe, says IAEA chief

On Wednesday, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) addressed concerns and provided reassurances to local residents and representatives regarding the planned release of treated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant. The IAEA has given its approval for the long-term discharge of water from the damaged plant, stating that it adheres to global standards and is considered safe.
However, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi acknowledged that concerns remain. He was talking at a meeting in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture.

About 1.33 million cubic metre of groundwater, rainwater and water used for cooling has been accumulated at the site of Fukushima nuclear plant. The nuclear plant is being decommissioned after several reactors went into meltdown after the 2011 tsunami badly damaged the plant.

Plant operator TEPCO treats the water through its ALPS processing system to remove almost all radioactive elements except tritium, and plans to dilute it before discharging it into the ocean over several decades.

It is expected that the release of water will begin this summer. But the plant is being opposed by regional neighbours. China has been vocal in condemning the plan. Even some communities, particularly fishing communities are opposing release of the water fearing that customers will shun their catches.

Grossi said the IAEA was not involved in the process to “give cover… to decorate something that is bad”.

“When it comes to this activity here, what is happening is not some exception, some strange plan that has been devised only to be applied here and sold to you,” he said.

“This is, as certified by the IAEA, the general practice that is agreed by and observed by many, many places, all over the world.”

Anger among residents
Media reports say that there is visible anger among residents.

Tetsu Nozaki, chairman of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations, argued Japan’s government was misrepresenting local sentiment, which he said remained strongly opposed to the plan.

“We fishery operators are left with no choice but to react emotionally and harden our attitude,” he told Grossi as per AFP.

“I beg you to realise… that this project of the release of ALPS-processed water is moving ahead in the face of opposition.”

Grossi said that he had no “magic wand” which could assuage all concerns. However, he underlined that the IAEA will set up permanent office to review the release for decades.

“We are going to stay here with you for decades to come, until the last drop of the water which is accumulated around the reactor has been safely discharged,” he said.

In a final report, IAEA said on Tuesday that release of the water would have “negligible” impact on the environment. South Korea has said that it respects the finding.

China has been vocal in its criticism, with its foreign ministry spokesman warning Wednesday that “the report cannot prove the legitimacy of Japan’s ocean-dumping plan”.

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