We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

The nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. Alamy Stock Photo

UN nuclear watchdog tries to allay fears surrounding water discharge at Fukushima nuclear plant

The release is expected to begin this summer but is opposed by locals and some regional neighbours.

THE HEAD OF the UN’s nuclear watchdog has tried to reassure local residents and representatives that the planned release of treated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant is safe.

The planned, decades-long discharge of accumulated water from the devastated nuclear facility has been approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as meeting global standards.

Its chief Rafael Grossi acknowledged at a meeting in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture, that concerns remain.

“All these complex graphs and statistics are one thing but the reality, the reality of people, the reality of the economy, the reality of the social mood and perceptions may be different,” he told a meeting of residents and officials.

Some 1.33 million cubic metres of groundwater, rainwater and water used for cooling have accumulated at the Fukushima site, which is being decommissioned after several reactors went into meltdown following the 2011 tsunami that 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.

The release is expected to begin this summer but is opposed by some regional neighbours, with Beijing vocally condemning the plan, as well as some in Fukushima, particularly fishing communities who fear 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.”

‘No choice’ 

Still, there is palpable anger among some residents who fear the reputational damage of the release.

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.

“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 he had no “magic wand” that could assuage concerns but pointed out the IAEA will set up a permanent office to review the release over 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.

The IAEA said yesterday in a final report that the release would have “negligible” impact on the environment, a finding that South Korea said it respects.

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

“The IAEA report has not silenced strong calls to oppose ocean dumping coming from within and outside Japan,” spokesman Wang Wenbin said.

Grossi also visited the Fukushima plant today.

“For the past five hours or so, I have been visiting different places, different locations… I was satisfied with what I saw,” Grossi told reporters, as he wound up his visit to the plant.

He said he was aware of China’s position, as he had visited the country recently and discussed the issue, adding “if there are any concerns I take (them) very seriously”.

“China is a very important partner also for IAEA and we are in close contact,” he said.

Grossi will make stops in regional neighbours, including South Korea, after his Japan trip.

“I am going to explain what IAEA (does) for Japan” during the visits, he said.

“IAEA is doing (its work) to ensure that there is no problem and that the environment is getting any negative impact,” he said.

- AFP 2023 

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel