UN nuclear watchdog launches review of Fukushima water release

The UN nuclear watchdog promised a "comprehensive" and "objective" review of Japan's controversial plan to release treated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea.

The United Nations nuclear watchdog yesterday promised a "comprehensive" and "objective" review of Japan's controversial plan to release treated water from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea.

During its inspection, the International Atomic Energy Agency will consult experts, including from China and South Korea, which have reacted angrily to the release plan.

More than a million tons of processed water has accumulated in tanks at the crippled nuclear plant since it went into meltdown following a tsunami in 2011, including liquid that was used to cool damaged reactors.

An extensive pumping and filtration system removes most radioactive elements, and Japan says the plan to dilute and release the water over several decades is safe.

The IAEA has endorsed the release, which it says is similar to the disposal of wastewater at nuclear plants elsewhere.

"The review includes several missions and technical visits in coming months and years," Lydie Evrard, the IAEA's deputy director general, said yesterday in Tokyo on a visit to kick off the inspection process.

Before sharing the results, the IAEA will ensure its review is "comprehensive" and "objective," she said in an online briefing after meeting officials in Fukushima and Tokyo.

The Japanese government's decision in April to go ahead with the release – which could begin as soon as March 2023 – sparked ire from neighboring countries over environmental and safety concerns.

It also generated fierce opposition from local fishing communities, who fear it will undermine years of work to restore confidence in their seafood.

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