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Japan nears date to dump nuclear wastewater into Pacific

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) task force and Japan have been working together to ensure compliance of standards as the nation nears the date it will discharge possible radioactive wastewater from its Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was destroyed in 2011 by a massive tsunami. Water was used to cool down its reactors.

Japan has already started work to treat the wastewater from the reactors and it plans to discharge the wastewater into the depths of the Pacific Ocean.

Flags at the Forum Secretariat in Suva. Picture: supplied

A statement by the IAEA said their first report on reviewing Japan’s policy to discharge treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station against relevant international safety standards has been released.

The report is the first in a series 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, which constitute the worldwide reference for protecting the public and the environment from harmful effects of ionising radiation.

A look at the Pacific Ocean from Deuba, Fiji. Picture: supplied

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

Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi welcomed the initial findings.

“Japan has made significant progress in its preparations and the Task Force is satisfied that TEPCO and METI have identified the appropriate next steps for the water discharge scheduled for 2023,” he said in the statement.

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“The work will continue so the Task Force can provide its conclusions before the discharge.”

The report includes a summary of the task force’s review and assessment activities across a range of topics such as the characteristics of the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) treated water, safety related aspects of the system built to discharge the water, the radiological environmental impact assessment, regulatory oversight, source and environmental monitoring programmes, occupational radiation protection, and the involvement of interested parties.

Exploding nuclear power plant. Picture: Shutterstock

“The Task Force highlighted the effective cooperation with the Japanese counterparts, which made it possible to clearly and promptly convey the results of the review mission to the international community” said Gustavo Caruso, Director of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, and Chair of the task force.

Forum still silent

The Pacific Islands Forum had hired a panel of multi-disciplinary scientists to draw its own conclusions on the effects of the discharge of wastewater from Fukushima.

So far there has been no formal word from the Forum on what their report entails.

However, one of the scientists with the panel, Robert Richmond, Director of the University of Hawaii Kewalo Marine Laboratory, has stated in the media that it was still inconclusive if the method of discharge is safe.

He said until there is a conclusive finding, there is a chance the radioactive materials from the wastewater may find its way into the food system.
The World Nuclear Association has stated there were no deaths or cases of radiation sickness from the nuclear accident, but over 100,000 people were evacuated from their homes as a preventative measure.

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