IAEA sanctions radioactive water release from Fukushima plant

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has given its approval for the planned release of treated radioactive water from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant.

IAEA head Rafael Grossi (pic) said over the weekend that the understands concerns remain over the plan but added that a review by the IAEA released last week found it was “in conformity with international safety standards” if executed according to plan.

In a major milestone for the decommissioning of the power plant, destroyed in a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011, the IAEA said last week that a two-year review showed Japan’s plans for the water release would have a negligible impact on the environment.

Grossi said there were no pending issues, after surveying the wrecked power plant and feeding flounder raised in the treated radioactive water as proof of its harmlessness.

He also inaugurated an IAEA office on site that will monitor the release of the water, which is expected to take 30 to 40 years.

However, Japanese fishing unions have long opposed the plan, saying it would undo work to repair reputational damage after several countries banned some Japanese food products for fear of radiation. Japan regularly tests seafood from the Fukushima area and has found it to be safe.

In the latest development in the ongoing saga, Grossi met with South Korea’s opposition Democratic Party members on Sunday 9 July,  who expressed strong public concerns over Japan’s plan and criticised the IAEA’s findings.

“The issue at hand today has attracted a lot of interest, and this is absolutely logical because the actions and the way in which Japan will be addressing this … have important implications,” Grossi said in the meeting.

Grossi was met with angry protests by civic groups as he arrived in South Korea on Friday from Japan and drew street rallies on Saturday criticising the plan.

South Korea’s government said on Friday it respected the IAEA’s report and that its own analysis  had found the release will not have “any meaningful impact” on its waters.

However, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin last week criticised the move towards discharging the water and threatened action if the plan should move ahead.