Japanese Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) announced the release into the ocean the first tranche of treated radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The announcement says that water releasing is conducted in accordance with the plan, previously approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
According to the plan the treated water will be released into the ocean one kilometer from the seashore via a specifically built tunnel. During the first stage, it is planned to release around 460 tons of water per day. Before being released every ton of treated water is mixed with 1.2 thousand tons of clean ocean water. According to Japanese officials mixing leads to a significant decrease of radioactive substances in the water, so it becomes safe. The first stage is supposed to release 7.8 thousand tons of treated water for 17 days. The total amount of water to be released in the 2023 fiscal year is around 32.2 thousand tons. 1.25 million tons of ocean water was used to cool the reactors of Fukushima Daiichi before the Tsunami in 2011.
After the beginning of the process, IAEA specialists approved that the released water meets the safety standards of the agency. 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. The specialists are to stay on the site until the water discharge ends.
“IAEA experts are there on the ground to serve as the eyes of the international community and ensure that the discharge is being carried out as planned consistent with IAEA safety standards… Through our presence, we contribute to generating the necessary confidence that the process is carried out in a safe and transparent way”
Rafael Mariano Grossi, IAEA Director General
The reaction of the international community is not univocal, Japan’s neighbours are attentively monitoring the process. South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo stated that Korea “sees no problem with the scientific or technical aspects of Japan's plan to release water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant but it does not necessarily support the plan”. He also added that Korea will keep in force the prohibition of all fishery products from eight Japanese prefectures, including Fukushima.
The government of the Philippines stated that it will attentively observe treated water discharging and study the potential impacts on the Pacific Ocean Environment. At the same time, the Philippine News Agency reports that “The Philippines recognizes the International Atomic Energy Agency’s technical expertise on this matter.”
However, not all reactions were positive – some of countries and international organizations criticized Japan’s decision. For example, Henry Puna, the secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum made a statement where he said that leaders of the forum member states have an intention to bring Japan to responsibility for releasing the radioactive water into the ocean. He said that the Forum’s members will elaborate on a shared position during the summit in Avarua in November.
China also demanded Japan stop the water discharge. The statement made by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that “in disregard of the strong criticism and opposition from the international community, the Japanese government unilaterally started the release of the Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean. China firmly opposes and strongly condemns it. We have made serious démarches to Japan and asked it to stop this wrongdoing.” China also suspended importing food from Japan due to risks of radioactive contamination of food and agricultural products exported to China.