TOKYO – The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, said on Thursday that he was impressed by Japan’s efforts to decommission the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and added that the time taken to achieve the objective was as important as safety.
It was not a race against time but about more security, Grossie said during a meeting with journalists in Tokyo on his official visit to Japan.
On March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami destroyed four of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which led to the worst nuclear tragedy since Chernobyl in 1986.
The process to remove all fuel, clean contaminated water and completely dismantle the plant, is a process that could take decades.
Grossi visited the Fukushima plant on Wednesday and said that the IAEA had been there since “day one,” sending experts and constantly monitoring the evolution of the process.
Despite complexities and difficult circumstances, the work was progressing positively, said the IAEA chief.
Grossi specifically referred to the decision to release the treated water into the Pacific Ocean, which has still technically to be approved by the government.
At present there is 1.8 million tons of water stored at the nuclear power plant and continues to increase, and the space available for storing the water will run out by mid-2022 when a new solution will be needed.
Although several options have been taken into account, the two options of either releasing the treated water into the Pacific Ocean or releasing its vapor into the atmosphere were considered. A panel of experts on Dec. 31 recommended the first option.
The conclusion of the group is being evaluated by the IAEA at the technical level, but with the information available, Grossi said that the method was in line with global standards.
He added that it was important that the final decision has neutral impact on the environment with monitoring before, during and after the process.
Grossi also said that releasing the treated water into the ocean was not something new and had been done in several installations, not just in nuclear plants, but he added that it should be carried out under adequate monitoring.
However, he said that it was one thing to implement the process, but equally important was how information was provided to all parties involved, and in which the IAEA could support.