IAEA report cannot justify Japan’s wastewater discharge plan


The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently released a report on the disposal of nuclear-contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) immediately issued the certificate to the plant’s operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) on facilities for discharging nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean.

The Japanese government recently claimed again that its discharge plan remains unchanged.

These actions prove that the Japanese side is trying to take the IAEA report as a permit for its discharge plan, in order to whitewash its erroneous decision to release nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean.

What Japan is doing is totally self-deception. Japan knows clearly how the IAEA report was made.

It didn’t invite the IAEA task force to launch relevant assessments until it unilaterally announced the discharge plan in April 2021, and the mandate was limited only to the evaluation of the ocean discharge plan. This is confirmed in the preface of the report by the IAEA director general.

It fully indicates that the Japanese side has already decided to discharge nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean, and the invitation to the IAEA was just “window dressing.”

Instead of eliminating the international community’s doubts about Japan’s discharge plan, the IAEA report triggered more questions.

Due to the limited mandate, the IAEA has only reviewed and assessed the data and information provided unilaterally by Japan, and conducted inter-laboratory comparative analysis for a small amount of samples of nuclear-contaminated water collected unilaterally by Japan.

The IAEA failed to review the justification and legitimacy of Japan’s ocean discharge plan, assess the long-term effectiveness of Japan’s purification facilities and corroborate the authenticity and accuracy of Japan’s nuclear-contaminated water data. It didn’t verify alternative plans, either.

The sampling of nuclear-contaminated water is grossly unrepresentative, and the relevant conclusions are limited and one-sided. The report is far from convincing.

The report clearly pointed out that the IAEA provides neither a recommendation nor an endorsement of Japan’s ocean discharge plan. The report should not be the “shield” or “greenlight” for Japan’s discharge of nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean.

Though the IAEA assessed the security of nuclear-contaminated water processed by TEPCO’s Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), the report still cannot guarantee the reliability and long-term effectiveness of the system.

The ALPS, as a key facility in Japan’s discharge plan, was put into trial operation in 2013. It was not certificated by the NRA until March 2022.

In fact, the system was not doing well during its trial operation. Four leakage incidents were reported in 2016, and two years later, it was found that radioactive substances including Strontium in nuclear-contaminated water treated by the ALPS were above the acceptable level.

Besides, nearly half of the filters used to absorb radioactive substances in the exhaust broke down in 2021.

It proves that the ALPS is not technically mature and whether it can work safely remains a question.

Japan’s discharge of nuclear-contaminated water will last as long as 30 years or even longer. The continuous aging of relevant equipment will further aggravate the non-compliance of nuclear-contaminated water to be discharged.

It’s a big mistake for the Japanese side to take the IAEA report as a “greenlight.” In fact, the IAEA has no right to dispose of radioactive substances.

Japan’s discharge plan was assessed by a technical working group assigned by the IAEA director general, but the report failed to reflect the views of all experts that participated in the assessment. The conclusion was not shared by all experts.

It is reported when the IAEA Secretariat sought opinions from the technical working group on the draft report, the experts were given very limited time, and there were no further discussions and consultations before the report was released.

According to a report by South Korean media, an anonymous source said that the Japanese government had obtained the draft report in advance and even proposed substantive revision suggestions, exerting inappropriate influence on the conclusion of the final report. This further exacerbated the international community’s concerns over Japan’s discharge plan, and triggered people’s doubt about the fairness and objectiveness of the report.

The disposal of nuclear-contaminated water at the station concerns the ecological and environmental safety of the Asia-Pacific region and the world, as well as the lives and health of people from all countries. The discharge plan has no precedent, and shall not be “greenlighted.”

Rather than draining its brain to have its discharge plan endorsed by the IAEA, Japan should face up to the concerns of the international community and its own citizens, halt the plan, dispose of nuclear-contaminated water in a science-based, safe and transparent manner, and stay open to strict supervision by the international community.


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