The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said his body is ready to send a team of inspectors upon request to monitor treated radioactive water set to be discharged from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant to address concerns over the impact on the environment.
“We can cooperate if the government of Japan so decides and invites us. We could cooperate in the whole spectrum of the operation, before, during and afterwards,” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said in a recent interview with Kyodo News, citing the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s expertise and experience.
The Japanese government is considering the option of releasing the water used to cool reactors stored at the Fukushima power station into the sea, but has yet to make a final decision amid strong opposition by the local fishery industry due to concerns about the reputation of marine products.
Neighboring countries such as China and South Korea have also expressed wariness over discharging the water from the Fukushima plant into the environment.
Grossi, an Argentine diplomat who succeeded the late Yukiya Amano as director general in December last year, said the IAEA can play “an extremely constructive role” in addressing concerns about the release of the water into the environment, such as by sharing information based on scientific facts.
The water has been treated using an advanced liquid processing system, or ALPS, to remove most contaminants other than relatively less toxic tritium. It is stored in tanks on the facility’s premises but space is expected to run out by the summer of 2022.
Evaporating the water from the plant was also among options discussed as methods to dispose of the water.
He said the IAEA plans to organize an international conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear crisis where participants including experts from Japan can discuss nuclear safety.
Grossi also said the construction of a final disposal site for high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants, under discussion in Japan, is technically feasible, citing the case of Onkalo, the world’s first spent nuclear fuel repository in Finland.
Two municipalities in Hokkaido recently signed up for preliminary research into their land to gauge its suitability for hosting a deep-underground disposal site for high-level radioactive nuclear waste. But Hokkaido Gov. Naomichi Suzuki and local fishermen are among those opposed to the idea.