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IAEA Review of Treated Water Discharge at Fukushima Daiichi to Report Findings in 2023


At this event, on the sidelines of the 66th IAEA General Conference, the work done and planned future activities under the IAEA’s safety review of the handling of Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS)-treated water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, was showcased. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

“Science and facts guide us in our review of safety related aspects of handling the treated water at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said at an event today held on the margins of the Agency’s 66th IAEA General Conference.

Updating participants on the IAEA’s multi-year safety review currently underway of Japan’s plans to discharge the treated water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, Mr Grossi said that the IAEA Task Force established to conduct the review was preparing for additional missions to Japan to gather further information for its comprehensive report, on track to be issued in 2023 before Japan begins the discharge of treated water.

The contaminated water from the site of the heavily damaged plant was treated to remove most radioactive materials and is currently stored in tanks at the site. In April 2021, Japan announced the Basic Policy on handling of the treated water, which includes a plan to discharge the treated water into the sea surrounding the plant, subject to domestic regulatory approvals and in compliance with international safety standards. Immediately after, the country requested the IAEA to monitor and review its plans. The IAEA Task Force’s three-pronged review is being carried out before, during and after the discharge of treated water.   

The side event was organised to provide countries attending this year’s General Conference with information on the plans and for updates on the IAEA’s review.

During his closing remarks, Director General Grossi recounted how the success of this review will show what the IAEA can do when given the resources and mandate. “As an independent, scientific, and neutral body, the success of this key endeavour is the credibility and confidence we provide." 

Japan’s treated water discharge plans are subject to domestic regulatory approvals, and in July this year the country’s Nuclear Regulation Authority provided initial approval for TEPCO’s plans. Japan has now begun to build the infrastructure and continues to implement their plan for the release.

The IAEA Task Force includes Agency experts and independent, internationally recognized experts with diverse technical competencies from 11 countries. Eight meetings have been held so far and two missions to Japan have been undertaken, with two reports published featuring initial observations by the Task Force. At the side event, Gustavo Caruso, Director of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security and Coordinator for Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (DNPP) ALPS Treated Water, presented findings from the first two reports – covering both technical and regulatory aspects related to safety of the proposed discharge of ALPS treated water. The third aspect – the IAEA’s independent sampling, data analysis and corroboration – will be covered in an upcoming report to be issued later this year. The purpose of this third report is to inform the public about the steps the IAEA will take to independently corroborate relevant data.

“The Agency has committed to a long-term safety review of the discharge. Our work will not end at the start of the water discharge,” said Caruso. “The public expects the IAEA to continue to be involved as an independent technical organization, and we are prepared to fill this role moving forward.”

During the event, Florence Descroix-Comanducci, Director of the IAEA Environment Laboratories in Monaco, spoke about the Agency’s technical sampling of the water. The Task Force visited Monaco as part of their last meeting, where they witnessed the equipment and processes established to handle the ALPS treated water samples, and environmental samples (e.g., seawater samples), and engaged with the relevant experts to discuss next steps.

The IAEA’s independent sampling, data analysis and corroboration will ensure that the radiological basis of planning for the discharge of ALPS treated water is sound,” said Ms Descroix-Comanducci. “This will provide confidence in the accuracy of data resulting from source and environmental monitoring undertaken by Japan and will enhance transparency of the radiological data on which planning for the discharge is based.”

Four IAEA laboratories are involved in the safety review – in Vienna at the Agency’s headquarters, in Seibersdorf, Austria, where the IAEA hosts a number of laboratories, and at the IAEA’s environmental laboratories in Monaco.

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