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IAEA arrives in Japan for final review of discharge plan

By Wang Xu | China Daily | Updated: 2023-05-31 09:42

An aerial view shows the storage tanks for treated water at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, Feb 13, 2021, in this photo taken by Kyodo. [Photo/Agencies]

An International Atomic Energy Agency task force has arrived in Tokyo for its final review of Japan's plan to release Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean.

The mission will last from Monday to Friday, during which experts from 11 countries, including China and the Republic of Korea, will visit the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and meet with Japanese officials, Tokyo Electric Power Company and Japan's nuclear watchdog Nuclear Regulation Authority, the IAEA said.

"The task force will use this opportunity to receive updates from TEPCO and the government of Japan regarding their work over the past few months and to confirm our understanding of different technical details — this will help us as we prepare the comprehensive assessment of the safety of Japan's plan for the water release," Gustavo Caruso, chairman of the task force, said.

The IAEA has repeatedly conducted inspections in Japan since February last year, and its final comprehensive report is expected to be released in June.

In April 2021, Japan unilaterally announced its decision to dump more than 1.3 million metric tons of treated but still radioactive water into the sea. The move sparked fierce protests from local fishing communities and neighboring countries, including China, the ROK, Russia and Pacific Island countries.

Under Japan's plan, TEPCO will gradually discharge the nuclear-contaminated water from this year. In all, the release would be sufficient to fill about 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The water has been used to cool highly radioactive damaged reactor cores, as a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011 destroyed the Fukushima plant's cooling systems, triggering the meltdown of three reactors and the release of large amounts of radiation.

Liu Qingbin, former professor at Yokohama National University's Institute of Advanced Sciences in Japan, said Japan had lost its credibility of dealing with the Fukushima disaster over the years and the IAEA must not be fooled by Japan's superficial skills.

"Actions speak louder than words," Liu said. "If you want to review, let's review this: The absence of safety measures prevented taking adequate precautions to avoid the nuclear accident. The delayed response led to further damage and risks, and the lack of transparency made people miscalculate their potential health exposure because of radiation."

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