IAEA monitors discharge from the Fukushima nuclear power plant

10 Oct 2023 by The Water Diplomat

The International Atomic Energy Agency is playing a key role internationally in monitoring and sharing the data related to the release of pre-treated water from storage facilities at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has requested the assistance of the IAEA with regard to the controlled release of ALPS-treated water into the sea from the power station. The release of wastewater and the risk of its contamination by radionuclides  has drawn international attention and sparked concerns over its environmental impact and safety. Grossi remarked, "The controlled release of treated water from Fukushima Daiichi is a complex issue that requires careful monitoring to ensure its safety and minimize its impact on the environment. The IAEA is actively involved in overseeing this process."

The IAEA has played a critical role in monitoring the Fukushima water release, ensuring that it complies with international safety standards. Independent sampling and monitoring have confirmed that tritium levels in the discharged water are below Japan's operational limit, alleviating some safety concerns.

Amidst these developments, China has vehemently opposed Japan's actions, particularly the discharge of treated radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. In response to the Fukushima water release, China imposed a blanket ban on Japanese seafood imports, further straining bilateral relations.

The rising tensions between Japan and China over this issue have had diplomatic repercussions. Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida did not hold sit-down talks on the fringes of Association of Southeast Asian Nations-related summits in Jakarta last month, opting for only an informal chat. China has effectively rejected a visit by Natsuo Yamaguchi, chief of Japan's Komeito party, known for its friendly ties with Beijing.

Moreover, senior Chinese military officers had planned a visit to Japan, part of reciprocal visits between the two nations' defense officers, which had restarted in July after a four-year suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the trip has been postponed, seemingly due to the dispute over the Fukushima water release. The rescheduled visit is unlikely to take place by the end of the year, indicating the depth of the disagreement between the two Asian powers.

China's opposition to the Fukushima water release remains a contentious issue, with Japan emphasizing the safety, transparency, and science-based nature of its actions. Meanwhile, the IAEA continues to closely monitor the situation, ensuring that international safety standards are upheld.

In response to these concerns, Japan has been proactive in collaborating with international partners and neighboring countries. Japan and South Korea have been cooperating in monitoring the Fukushima water release closely. The IAEA has been involved in the assessment of the water release. The agency concluded that, if carried out precisely as planned, it would have a negligible impact on the environment, marine life, and human health.

However, the Fukushima water release is not the only nuclear concern on the international stage. The Director General of the IAEA reiterated his support for nuclear safety and security in Ukraine, where the situation at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant remains highly precarious. The IAEA has conducted 53 missions in Ukraine, including visits to all five nuclear sites. Recent increased military activity near the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant has raised concerns about potential risks to nuclear safety and security.