The South Korean government said Friday (7/7/2023) that Japan’s plan to release contaminated waste water from the crippled Fukushima power plant would meet international standards, including those set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (International Atomic Energy Agency). IAEA), if carried out as planned.
The Japanese government announced their scientific analysis of the disposal plan, based on the findings of a power plant site inspection completed in late May and related data, as well as an analysis of the IAEA’s safety review.
“After reviewing the contaminated water treatment plan provided by Japan so far, the total concentration level of radioactive materials from the Japanese plan will meet the standards for release into the sea,” South Korean Government Policy Coordination Minister Bang Moon-kyu said in a daily press briefing.
Therefore, Bang said, the plan has been confirmed to meet international standards, including IAEA standards.
According to a simulation based on emission standards set by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the power plant, the radiation impact on South Korea’s coast is estimated at about one per 100,000 current levels.
The government further said that the power plant’s purification system technology, known as ALPS, had gradually improved and stabilized, resulting in radionuclide levels within the permitted limits since mid-2019.
“The simulation results show that it will take about four to five years and up to 10 years for the contaminated water to reach our seawater and have an effect,” Bang said, adding “it won’t have a significant impact.”
Previously, Seoul had reported that six types of radionuclides were detected at levels that exceeded the allowable limit even after processing through ALPS, but most of the cases occurred before 2019.
As ocean currents dispersed the contaminated water, the radioactive material was barely detectable on the South Korean coast, the government said, stressing that concentration levels would remain within acceptable limits.
In particular, the concentration level of tritium, a known radioisotope of hydrogen that is still detectable after processing through ALPS, would also be within limits because seawater would dilute it sufficiently.
“The review will be carried out on the grounds that the planned release of Tokyo Electric Power is carried out according to plan,” said Bang, adding the government would carry out further reviews if there is a change in plans.
The government also emphasized respect for the results of the IAEA’s security review of the Japanese plan.
On Tuesday, the UN nuclear watchdog announced that its two-year review found that Japan’s plan to release waste water from power plants into the sea was consistent with its safety standards. The agency also stated that the treated water would have non-hazardous radiological impacts, both to humans and the environment.
The announcement coincides with IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi’s visit to South Korea for three days, following a four-day trip to Japan.
In response to growing public concern, Seoul launched a daily press briefing last month to keep the public updated on plans to release water from the power plant, which was badly damaged by a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
Despite the findings, the plan is still being fiercely debated by political parties.
The main opposition Democrats, who argue that releasing the water will have health and environmental ramifications, again questioned the credibility of the IAEA report this week, saying overconfidence in the report would be dangerous.
All 167 Democratic Party lawmakers held an all-night sit-in in the National Assembly on Thursday protesting Japan’s plan to release the water and denouncing the South Korean government’s response to it. On Friday, Democratic Party lawmakers held a party meeting, demanding IAEA Director General Grossi hold a public debate on the issue.
The ruling People Power Party (PPP) accuses the Democratic Party of inciting fear among the public with unscientific claims in an attempt to capitalize on the issue for political gain ahead of next year’s general election.
PPP further criticized the discrediting of the IAEA, an internationally recognized body, for only making fun of South Korea in the international community.