11 July 2023
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has released a comprehensive report reviewing the plans of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and the Japanese Government to release treated radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The power plant was damaged during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The planned release is an important step towards enabling the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, with recent reports of the internal damage to the reactors highlighting the ongoing risk if decommissioning is not managed and conducted in a timely manner.
ARPANSA has continually reviewed the information released by the Japanese Government and the IAEA, including the recently released IAEA report.
‘ARPANSA supports the IAEA’s assessment that the Japanese plans for discharge of water treated through the Advanced Liquid Processing System will not have an adverse impact on people and the environment,’ said ARPANSA CEO Dr Gillian Hirth.
The IAEA report showed that the approach to the discharge of treated water and associated activities by TEPCO and the Japanese Government are consistent with relevant international safety standards. The levels of radioactivity in the treated water would be kept within safe limits where there are no associated health risks to people or the environment in Japan or surrounding countries.
‘The damaged reactors require constant cooling and water used in cooling becomes contaminated with radioactive isotopes,’ said Dr Hirth.
‘Used water is treated to remove most of the radioactive isotopes and stored in tanks, however the storage capacity is limited and ultimately, a safe disposal pathway is needed.
‘In Australia, many hospitals routinely discharge radionuclides associated with medical isotopes into the sea and air.
‘Releasing treated radioactive water into the sea does not present health or environmental risks if the discharges are kept within strict limits,’ said Dr Hirth.
Prior to release of the treated water, TEPCO will further dilute the tritium to a level of radioactivity which is less than the level outlined in the Australian drinking water guideline for tritium.
The dose rate to environmental biota, such as fish, will also be less than the screening level used to ensure protection of the environment in Australia. A clearly defined plan for environmental monitoring by TEPCO and the Japanese Government is in place, and the IAEA will provide an independent sampling program to ensure transparency during the discharge phase, including providing continuous live monitoring data to be made available on their website.
The treated water will quickly dilute in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, and radiation will be indistinguishable from background levels in waters surrounding Australia and the Pacific region.
The IAEA report was prepared by a panel of internationally recognised independent experts, including ARPANSA Chief Radiation Health Scientist Dr Rick Tinker, who participated in an individual capacity due to his expertise in this area.
ARPANSA research and public health advice on the potential radiological health impacts from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant can be found on the ARPANSA website.
Find out more: