IAEA confirms safe tritium levels in latest ALPS treated water release at Fukushima

7 November 2023

The tritium concentration in the third batch of diluted water treated with the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) released from the Fukushima Daiichi NPP by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is far below Japan’s operational limit, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts present at the site have confirmed.

IAEA experts stationed at the IAEA Fukushima NPS Office took samples from the third batch of diluted water after it was prepared for discharge. Using Agency equipment, the IAEA’s independent on-site analysis confirmed that the tritium concentration in the diluted water that is being discharged is far below the operational limit of 1,500 becquerels per litre.

Japan is discharging the ALPS treated water from the Fukushima site in batches. The IAEA has confirmed that both previous batches in August and October also contained tritium concentrations far below operational limits. The IAEA Task Force conducting the ongoing safety review of the water discharge said that the release was progressing as planned and without any technical concerns. All reports on sampling, independent analysis and data evaluation are available on the IAEA website.

Each release so far involved 7,800 tonnes of treated water. The water is diluted with large amounts of seawater before being gradually released into the Pacific Ocean through a mile-long undersea tunnel. In total, 1.34m tonnes tons of radioactive wastewater stored in about 1,000 tanks at the plant will be released over the coming decades.

The water was accumulated after the NPP was crippled by the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan in 2011 resulting in the core meltdown of three reactors. Water was used to cool the reactors. However, the tanks are almost full and need to be emptied to enable decommissioning of the plant to proceed.

However, the water release continues to provoke protests from fishing communities and neighbouring countries including South Korea. China has banned all imports of Japanese seafood prompting the government to set up a relief fund to help find new markets for the products and to launch a campaign in Japan to eat fish.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan has consistently provided transparent and scientific explanations about the discharge and has convinced many members of the international community, but “some countries are restricting Japanese seafood without scientific bases”.

He added: “We must continue to patiently explain to those countries bilaterally to request lifting of the restrictions. And it is also important to firmly show Japan's position at international meetings” and bodies such as the World Trade Organisation.”

Addressing the 24th Tripartite (Japan, South Korea, and China) Environment Ministers meeting in Japan, Chinese Minister of Ecology & Environment Huang Runqiu urged Japan to engage in full consultations with stakeholders in handling the release of   water from the Fukushima plant in a responsible manner. "We also called for the prompt establishment of a long-term international monitoring mechanism with the participation of Japan, neighbouring countries, and other relevant stakeholders to effectively protect the global marine environment," Huang said.

Image: Pipes for transporting seawater

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