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Japan: UN’s IAEA To Give Nod To Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Water Release

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Japan will get a review from a United Nations agency on Tuesday that will expectedly approve a strategy wherein the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station will release radioactive water into the sea surrounding the plant.

Rafael Grossi, chief of UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Tuesday begins visit to Japan, where he will first meet with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and during his four-day trip will showcase the agency’s two-year safety review of the plant.

In anticipation of the IAEA’s final examination and official approval from the national nuclear regulatory agency for Tokyo Electric Power, Japan has not yet announced a timetable for the water release. The regulatory body’s ultimate decision can be announced as soon as this week.

The water release plan by Japan was announced in April 2021, at the time, the government had set a Basic Policy on taking charge of ALPS-treated water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. However, China has called the move as “irresponsible and unpopular” as well as a fierce danger to food and ecological safety. Japan’s other neighbours have also criticized the step.

Chinese embassy in Japan reiterated its stance, claiming that the UN agency’s review report should not be taken as a “pass” for the plan and demanding the water release to be called off. According to Japan’s foreign ministry, it has time and again tried to understand the reasons and process behind the move but China had always ignored its explanations.

For local Japanese fishing communities, there is a risk of reputational and a loss of business if the country takes such a step.

As per Japanese plans, it will release 1.3 million tonnes of water into the sea. The water is used to lower the temperature of the fuel rods of the plant destroyed by a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

The water has been treated in the plant for removal of radioactive elements barring tritium, which is an isotope of hydrogen that requires huge efforts to separate it from water. Before being discharged into the Pacific Ocean, the treated water will be diluted to considerably below the tritium levels that are considered safe by the international community.

Worldwide, nuclear power plants frequently release waste water having tritium over the concentration of TEPCO’s treated water. In spite of this, South Koreans have stockpiled up on sea salt before Japan releases the water, while China’s foreign ministry slammed the plan on Monday and demanded that the IAEA not approve it.

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