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Press Release 2013/19

IAEA Expert Remediation Mission to Japan Issues Preliminary Report

21 October 2013 | Tokyo -- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s international expert mission to review remediation efforts in areas affected by the Fukushima Daiichi accident concluded today with the presentation of a Preliminary Summary Report to Japan's Senior Vice-Minister of the Environment, Shinji Inoue.

The Follow-up IAEA International Mission on Remediation of Large Contaminated Areas Off-site the Fukushima Daiichi NPS recognised the huge effort and enormous resources that Japan is devoting to its remediation strategies and activities, with the aim of improving living conditions for people affected by the nuclear accident and enabling evacuees to return home.

The Mission Team highlighted important progress since the first IAEA remediation mission in October 2011, noted that Japan had made good use of advice from that earlier Mission, and offered fresh advice in a number of areas where it is still possible to further improve current practices, taking into account both international standards and the experience of remediation programmes in other countries.

"Japan has done an enormous amount to reduce people's radiation exposure in the affected areas, to work towards enabling evacuees to go back to their homes and to support local communities in overcoming economic and social disruption," said team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo, Director of the Division of Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology in the IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy.

"The Mission Team has been really impressed by the involvement of a wide range of ministries, agencies and local authorities in driving these crucial remediation efforts."

Among the findings of the Mission, which was requested by the Japanese government and began on 14 October, the team welcomed the extensive provision of individual dosimeters so that residents can monitor their own radiation dose rates, helping to boost public confidence.

Good progress has been made in the remediation of affected farmland, and comprehensive implementation of food safety measures has protected consumers and improved consumer confidence in farm produce. A comprehensive programme to monitor fresh water sources such as rivers, lakes and ponds is ongoing, including extensive food monitoring of both wild and cultivated freshwater fish.

The Mission encouraged the Japanese government to strengthen its efforts to explain to the public that an additional individual radiation dose of 1 millisievert per year (mSv/y), which it has announced as a long-term goal, cannot be achieved in a short time by decontamination work alone. In remediation situations, with appropriate consideration of the prevailing circumstances, any level of individual radiation dose in the range of 1 to 20 mSv/y is acceptable and in line with international standards and the recommendations of the relevant international organisations such as the IAEA, International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effect of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) and World Health Organisation (WHO).

The Mission encouraged the relevant institutions in Japan to assess the role that the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) could play in the independent review of the remediation activities, particularly those required for the long term. The Mission also encouraged the relevant organisations to conduct safety assessments of the facilities and activities for the long-term management of contaminated materials, and to allow for their independent review.

The Mission Team acknowledged that the Japanese authorities have implemented a practical option for remediating the region's extensive forest areas, taking a limited approach by removing material under the trees in a 20-meter buffer strip adjacent to residences, farmland and public spaces. It recommended concentrating efforts on areas that bring the greatest benefit in reducing doses to the public, while avoiding damage to the ecological functioning of the forest where possible.

The 16-person team consisted of international experts and IAEA staff working in a range of disciplines, including radiation protection, remediation technologies, waste management and stakeholder involvement.

The Mission's Preliminary Summary Report can be viewed here. The final report will be presented to the Japanese government in December.

Background

The Mission, which is the follow-up to the IAEA International Mission on Remediation of Large Contaminated Areas Off-site the Fukushima Daiichi NPS in October 2011, had the following three objectives:

  • To provide assistance to Japan in assessing the progress made with the remediation of the Special Decontamination Area (not included in the previous mission of 2011) and the Intensive Contamination Survey Areas;
  • To review remediation strategies, plans and works, in view of the advice provided by the previous mission on remediation of large contaminated off-site areas; and
  • To share its findings with the international community as lessons learned.

The Mission Team assessed comprehensive information provided by the Japanese authorities and held discussions with the relevant institutions, including national, prefectural and local institutions. It also visited the affected areas, including several sites where remediation activities were conducted and some temporary storage sites for radioactive waste and soil, as well as a survey area for an interim storage facility, and a demonstration facility for incineration of sewage sludge.

The Mission was in line with the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, which was unanimously endorsed by the IAEA's Member States in September 2011 and defines a programme of work to strengthen the global nuclear safety framework.