IAEA chief to visit Japanese nuclear power plant destroyed by tsunami before radioactive water was released

TOKYO (AP) — The UN nuclear chief is due to visit Japan’s nuclear power plant destroyed by the tsunami on Wednesday after the agency confirmed the safety of a controversial plan to release treated radioactive water into the sea. .

En route to the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the culmination of his four-day visit to Japan, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, will join government and utility officials to hear the concerns of mayors and leaders of fishing associations and assure them of the validity of the plan. security.

The IAEA, in its final report released on Tuesday, concluded that the plan to discharge the sewage – which would be significantly diluted but would still have some radioactivity – meets international standards and that its environmental and health impact would be negligible.

But local fishing organizations have rejected the plan because they fear their reputations will be tarnished even if their catch is not contaminated. It is also opposed by groups in South Korea, China and some Pacific island countries for security and political reasons.

The Fukushima Fishermen’s Association passed a resolution on June 30 stating that its rejection of the treated water discharge plan remains unchanged.

Grossi told a news conference on Tuesday that the IAEA will continue to monitor and assess the water release, which will take decades. “I believe in transparency, I believe in open dialogue and I believe in the validity of the exercise we are conducting,” he said.

The report is a “comprehensive, neutral, objective and scientifically sound assessment,” Grossi said. “We’re very confident about that.”

A massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 destroyed the cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, causing three reactors to melt and contaminate their cooling water, which continually leaks. Water is collected, treated and stored in approximately 1,000 reservoirs, which will reach capacity in early 2024.

The government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings say the water needs to be drained off to prevent accidental leaks and make room for dismantling the plant.

Japanese regulators completed their final safety inspection last week, and TEPCO is expected to obtain the permit for release in the coming days. It could then start gradually discharging water at any time through an underwater tunnel from the plant to a location 1 kilometer (1,000 yards) offshore in the Pacific Ocean. But the start date is undecided due to protests at home and abroad.

Grossi said the treatment, dilution and gradual release of wastewater is a proven method widely used in other countries, including China, South Korea, the United States and France, to remove water. containing certain radionuclides from nuclear power plants.

Much of Fukushima’s wastewater contains cesium and other radionuclides, but it will be further filtered to bring it below international standards for everything but tritium, which is inseparable from water. It will then be diluted 100 times with seawater before being released.

Some scientists say the impact of long-term, low-dose exposure to radionuclides remains unknown and urge a delay in release. Others say the discard plan is safe but call for more transparency in sampling and monitoring.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, after meeting Grossi, said Japan would continue to provide “detailed explanations based on scientific evidence with a high degree of transparency both domestically and internationally.”

Grossi is also expected to travel to South Korea, New Zealand and the Cook Islands after his visit to Japan to allay concerns.

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