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EDITORIAL | IAEA Backs Treated Water Release, Kishida Should Not Delay

The government should immediately act on the report of the IAEA. Hesitation will only give room to misinformation and malicious rumors.



IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi pays a courtesy visit to Prime Minister Kishida on July 4. (Courtesy of Prime Minister's Office)

On July 4, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi presented a comprehensive report to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. It was regarding the safety of plans to discharge treated water into the ocean from TEPCO's stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

The report concludes that the plan is scientifically sound and identifies no concerns. This is an encouraging development for Japan. The report is the official view of the IAEA, an organization responsible for overseeing the peaceful use of nuclear energy around the world.

We urge the Prime Minister to intensify preparations for initiating the release this summer. Hesitation will be self-defeating, as it will only provide critics at home and abroad with further opportunities to spread misinformation and malicious rumors. 

The only radioactive material that remains in the treated water is tritium (hydrogen-3), which exists in liquid form. The Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) cannot remove tritium from the water. However, tritium's radiation level is very low, and it is quickly discharged from the bodies of living organisms. Additionally, the release plan calls for the wastewater containing tritium to be mixed with a large quantity of seawater. That will dilute it even further before it is released into the Pacific Ocean.

Director-General Grossi (left) attends the Fukushima Council for Decommissioning, Contaminated Water, and Treated Water Management at Iwaki City, Fukushima. There, he also talks about the IAEA's efforts and the safety of the treated water release on July 5, 2023. (Kyodo)

Ensuring Safety and Transparency

The treated water is currently stored in more than 1,000 large tanks. However, it is important to note that the net volume of tritiated water in each tank is less than one tablespoon of the entire volume.

The Japanese government established its basic policy for the treated water release in April 2021. In doing so, it sought an impartial evaluation from the IAEA to ensure that it was carried out safely and transparently.

Besides presenting the IAEA's comprehensive report, Grossi visited the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on July 5. There, he inaugurated an IAEA office that will be responsible for continuous monitoring of the wastewater discharge operation.

The space for storage tanks at Fukushima Daiichi is almost completely full. Delays in the planned release of the treated water will directly translate into delays in the decommissioning process and regional recovery. We thank Mr Grossi for delivering the comprehensive report in time to avoid such a situation.

That does not ensure smooth sailing, however. At this critical juncture, Natsuo Yamaguchi, the leader of the ruling coalition's Komeito party, made an outlandish comment. He suggested that the discharge process should be put off "to avoid the upcoming swimming season."

An IAEA Task Force is inspecting the treated water tanks. On June 2, 2023. (© TEPCO)

Unfounded Rumors, the Enemy of Reconstruction

The biggest enemy in the reconstruction of Fukushima is damage from unfounded rumors. If Yamaguchi failed to realize that his statement could fuel baseless rumors, then his common sense must also be questioned. Admittedly, he rushed to clarify his statement, but the damage was already done.

Ignoring scientific evidence in this manner only serves to feed the baseless assertions being made by China and opposition parties in South Korea. That is irrespective of the facts, they argue that the discharge of treated water into the ocean is dangerous.


Kishida has received the IAEA report. Now he must engage in further discussions with local fishermen and open the gates for the release of treated water.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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