The IAEA is committed to independently monitor the planned discharge of treated water into the sea at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant and will provide regular assessments to the Japanese government and the international community, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi told Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on 20 May. This followed his visit to the Fukushima Daiichi NPP, as part of a three-day visit to Japan. Grossi observed the preparations for the discharge of treated water and noted the “remarkable progress on decommissioning at Fukushima Daiichi since my last visit two years ago”.

The IAEA is reviewing Japan’s policy to discharge treated water from Fukushima Daiichi against relevant international safety standards.

“The continued scientific review and objective review by the IAEA regarding the discharge into the ocean is an extremely significant effort in order to gain an understanding for the public, both at home and abroad,” Kishida told a press conference following the meeting. “Japan intends to continue to respond with utmost transparency; we look forward to continue working with the IAEA.”

In February this year, the IAEA Task Force completed a review mission to Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the operator of Fukushima Daiichi, and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (Meti). “Japan has made significant progress in its preparations, and the IAEA Task Force is satisfied that Tepco and Meti have identified the appropriate next steps for the water discharge scheduled for 2023,” Mr Grossi said. “The IAEA is committed to providing a thorough safety review before, during and after the release of treated water and to carrying out our work in an objective and transparent manner.”

The IAEA Task Force released its first report in April, summarising the overall progress of the IAEA’s safety review of Tepco’s preparations for the proposed water discharge. The report noted technical areas where additional discussions and information are warranted, such as the radiological characterisation of the treated water and the consideration of abnormal events and external hazards. The treated water that is proposed for discharge into the sea is the result of the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) filtration process. ALPS uses a series of chemical reactions to remove most radionuclides from contaminated water. The Task Force also noted the importance of identifying the inventories of radionuclides in ALPS-treated water and the amounts that will be discharged to the environment.

“Looking ahead, the IAEA has many more activities planned – additional missions, independent sampling and analysis of the treated water and environmental samples to corroborate data from Japan, and the evaluation of workers’ radiation exposure on site,” Grossi said. A second mission of the Task Force, which includes both IAEA staff and independent, internationally recognised experts from various countries, is planned for the second half of 2022. This mission will follow up on Tepco’s and Meti’s progress on technical topics, as well as review the revised radiological environmental impact assessment.