This year marks a decade since the Great East Japan Earthquake. We would like to once again express our gratitude for the great support we received from Bangladesh in the wake of this disaster. The reconstruction of the disaster areas is making steady progress, but there are still challenges to overcome. The decommissioning of the TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings)’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (FDNPS) is one of the most important challenges, and the disposal of the water treated by Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) is inevitable to move forward.
On May 17, the Ambassador of China to Bangladesh contributed an article in which he criticised the Japanese Government’s announcement of its basic policy on handling of the ALPS treated water at the TEPCO’s FDNPS, describing the ALPS treated water as the “contaminated water”. Regrettably, the Chinese Ambassador’s article provided no scientific evidence to support his claim. It is extremely regrettable if China is trying to spread negative images about the safety of the ALPS treated water and Japan’s efforts based on inaccurate information. Moreover, the Ambassador’s assertions are factually inaccurate, especially regarding; (1) safe handling of the ALPS treated water, (2) disclosure and explanation of relevant information, and (3) compliance with international law and rules.First of all, regarding the (1) safe handling of the ALPS treated water, this water has been treated by special purification systems called ALPS that remove radioactive materials other than tritium to meet regulatory standards and it is completely different from contaminated water generated in the building. When discharging it into the sea, Japan will further dilute the ALPS treated water more than 100 times and discharge the water with all radioactive materials including tritium at levels that do not affect human health or the environment. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to which China is a member state, also acknowledges that the discharge of the ALPS treated water into the sea is technically feasible and in line with international practice. It should be noted that tritium is a substance widely found in rainwater, seawater, tap water, human body and nature, and is not accumulated in living organisms. The discharge of tritium-containing water into the sea has already been routinely carried out at nuclear power plants in the world including China.
IAEADirector General Grossi’s Visit to Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station(February 2020)
In addition to experts from the United States, Australia, and Indonesia, scientists from the Republic of Korea and Russia, which are cited as “countries of deep concern” in the Chinese Ambassador’s article, have also expressed their opinions that the discharge of the ALPS treated water does not cause any harm. This fact indicates that, from a scientific point of view, the recognition of the safety of the ALPS treated water does not differ between Japan and other countries.It is inaccurate to say that the United States was the first country to stop importing food from the region “because of radioactive contamination”. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has assessed that "It is considered that the discharge into the sea does not affect the safety of (1) foods imported from Japan or (2) domestic foods in the United States, including seafood caught off the coast of the United States." The U.S. has merely suspended imports of items for which Japan itself has restricted shipments, and has not imposed restrictions on majority of the agricultural and marine products from Japan.
(2) Regarding the “disclosure and explanation of relevant information,” the government of Japan has held a series of briefings in Tokyo on the ALPS treated water to diplomatic corps and other interested parties including China. The government of Japan has been explaining the status of the handling of the ALPS treated water to the international community in a transparent manner, by notifying reports on the decommissioning of the reactor including to the diplomatic corps in Tokyo, the IAEA and others every month in principle, and providing information on government websites. Japan will continue to provide accurate information based on scientific evidence in a transparent manner.
Storage Tanks for the ALPS treated water at the TEPCO’s FDNPS
Lastly, with regard to (3) “compliance with international law and rules,” the government of Japan will continue to ensure compliance with international law and domestic and international regulations and rules, taking into full consideration the potential impact on the environment as well as the health and safety of people, and will meet established regulatory standards based on international standards such as the recommendation of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) in the event of discharge of the ALPS treated water into the sea. Furthermore, measures will be taken, prior to the discharge, to assess the potential impact on the marine environment. This assessment will be reviewed by the IAEA and will be made public. The government of Japan and TEPCO will strengthen and enhance monitoring, so Japan does not “threaten public health or security.”
The government of Japan has been receiving IAEA review missions for 16 times since the accident of FDNPS, and will continue to accept IAEA reviews on the handling of the ALPS treated water, including on marine monitoring after the discharge. The IAEA has stated that the discharge into the sea is in line with international practice, and the claim that “many international organisations have expressed deep concern” is not based on facts.
The government of Japan will continue to actively conduct dialogues with the international community on the ALPS treated water, and explain in a transparent manner based on scientific evidence. We will carry on our efforts to the decommissioning of FDNPS and the reconstruction of the disaster areas, ensuring the safety of people and the environment.
The writer is Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh