The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Task Force established to review Japan’s discharge of treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station have released a report setting out their initial observations on regulatory aspects of the proposed Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) treated water discharge.

The regulatory aspects are one component of the Task Force’s three-pronged review, to be carried out before, during and after the discharge of treated water. The other two components are the review of technical aspects related to safety of the proposed discharge of ALPS treated water (the first report was released in April), and conducting independent sampling and analysis.

The Task Force comprises experts from the IAEA Secretariat and external organisations from around the world, and from the region, in relevant fields such as radiation safety.

The 60-page report covers the findings from a Task Force mission to Japan held from 21 to 25 March, which cover five topics: the responsibilities and functions of the government; major principles and safety objectives; the authorisation process; source monitoring and environmental monitoring; and public consultation and involvement of interested parties.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi noted that Japan has made significant progress. “Nuclear safety is a national responsibility and Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) holds the responsibility for assessing the safety of the proposed discharge of the treated water. The IAEA’s assessment of their work will provide the international community with credible assurances that the discharge is conducted in line with the IAEA safety standards, the global reference for protecting people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation.”

The Task Force will return to Japan for another mission covering regulatory aspects in early 2023. Preparing for the work ahead, the Task Force noted the importance of continuing to review the regulatory process and NRA’s work as construction and inspections will take place. Japan intends to start discharging the ALPS treated water in 2023.

“The Task Force has released this progress report to update the international community on our observations at this stage of the process,” said Gustavo Caruso, Director, IAEA Department of Nuclear Safety and Security and Chair of the Task Force. “The IAEA’s review, and the NRA’s domestic regulatory review, are both ongoing processes and we continue to coordinate to ensure a complete understanding of what Japan is doing. We look forward to another mission on regulatory aspects early next year, and which will also help us to better understand the oversight and inspection processes put in place, as well as to see how NRA has considered the Task Force’s recommendations and observations contained in this report.”

The scope of the IAEA review aims to assess safety related aspects of the implementation of Japan’s Basic Policy on handling ALPS treated water at the Fukushima Daiichi NPP against IAEA international safety standards. The current approach outlined in the Basic Policy is to conduct a series of controlled discharges of ALPS treated water into the sea over a period of approximately 30 years.

The report, published on the IAEA website, is intended to serve as a progress report and final conclusions will not be drawn while the IAEA’s review is still ongoing. Before the discharge of the ALPS treated water, IAEA will issue a full report containing the combined conclusions of the Task Force across all aspects of the review. This will include the final findings and conclusions of the Task Force.

Image: Aerial view of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (photo courtesy of IAEA)