The UN nuclear watchdog says it has reached an agreement with Japan to help monitor and review the release of treated radioactive water from the Fukushima plant into the Pacific Ocean.
The Japanese government decided in April to begin discharging the water in about two years after building a facility and compiling release plans that complied with safety requirements. The idea has been fiercely opposed by fishermen, residents and Japan’s neighbors.
Japan asked the International Atomic Energy Agency to review its plans against international safety standards and to support and be present during environmental monitoring operations. The Vienna-based IAEA said it has now agreed “terms of reference” with Tokyo and that its first review mission to Japan is expected later this year.
“The IAEA will play an important role in monitoring and reviewing the implementation of its plan by Japan. In the eyes of the international community, IAEA experts will be able to verify that the water is discharged safely,” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said in a statement “It is of paramount importance to reassure people in Japan and elsewhere in the world. Especially in neighboring countries, that water is not a threat to them.”
The agency said that “Japan’s chosen settlement method is technically feasible and in line with international practice.”
The accumulated water has been stored in tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi plant since 2011, when a major earthquake and tsunami damaged its reactors and their cooling water became contaminated and began to leak. The storage capacity of the plant will be completed by the end of next year.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in April that discharge from the sea was the most realistic option and that disposal of the water was inevitable leading to the closure of the plant, which is expected to take decades. He also promised that the government would work to ensure water security.