Fukushima nuclear power plant: UN nuclear regulator wants to assess the disposal of tritium water

The IAEA, the United Nations nuclear regulator, wants to send a team to Fukushima. That said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, according to a report by the Japanese broadcaster NHK. The aim is to dispel concerns about the plan to drain millions of cubic meters of cooling water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was damaged ten years ago, into the Pacific.

Grossi said according to the NHK report, The Japanese government has formally applied for cooperation with the IAEA. The team of experts could consist of experts from different nations. Every serious concern should be discussed and technically analyzed and the concerns of residents and neighboring countries such as South Korea and China should be taken into account.

South Korea wants to participate in the international IAEA team, reports the South Korean broadcaster KBS. The IAEA is positive and understanding towards the request. However, Japan could speak out against the IAEA called. South Korea is also considering taking legal action against the Japanese plans.

Japanese Industry Minister Kajiyama Hiroshi said his government had decided to divert the cooling water to help rebuild Fukushima, according to the NHK. His government is aware that the decision is associated with a heavy responsibility.

The governor of Fukushima Prefecture, Uchibori Masao had previously stressed that in the ten years since the worst-case scenario, the people of Fukushima had done everything possible to rebuild the affected area and to combat misunderstandings that threatened their reputation. The plan to channel the cooling water into the sea could destroy these efforts.

The fuel that was melted after the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011 still needs to be cooled. The cooling water is contaminated with radionuclides, which are collected on site and treated with the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS). Up to 1.37 million m3 Cooling water can be stored in Fukushima, the tanks are expected to be full in the summer of 2022. The water should be diluted into the sea in about two years, the process should take years.

With the ALPS process, 62 radionuclides can be removed from the water, except for a residue that is below the legal requirements for discharge into the environment, the IAEA explains in a report from April 2020. Tritium cannot be removed with ALPS. Like tritium, the IAEA itself does not list radioactive carbon-14 among the 62 removable radionuclides.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant with its six reactor blocks before the disaster. It is about 250 km from Tokyo as the crow flies. All six blocks are based on the boiling water reactor series BWR 3 to BWR 5 from the US company General Electric; they were built between 1971 and 1979. Unit 1 was originally supposed to be closed at the end of March 2011, but the Japanese authorities approved a ten-year extension in February 2011.
(Image: dpa)

The environmental protection organization Greenpeace became aware of this. She accuses the nuclear power plant operator TepcoTo have, against better knowledge, for reasons of cost, to have dispensed with a US technology for water treatment with better empirical values. Overall, the situation in Fukushima is far more complex than in the Chernobyl nuclear reactor that was damaged 35 years ago. There is still no suitable technology to recover the molten nuclear fuel, and there are strong groundwater flows in Fukushima. Greenpeace considers the lack of space, because of which the cooling water is to be drained, to be an emergency constructed by the Japanese government and Tepco.


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