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Updated On: Monday, 16 September 2019

IAEA Gives Thumbs Up to Japan’s Fukushima Cleanup Progress

Content by: South-South News

18 February 2015, New York, USA | Brendan Pastor – The International Atomic Energy Agency expressed words of support and approval for the ongoing decommissioning operations at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant this week.

A fifteen member team surveyed current and proposed plans to clean up the site and gradually eliminate the nuclear material, noting the significant progress that had been achieved by national efforts following botched cleanup efforts in 2011 and 2012.

"I came here in May 2011, just a couple of months after the accident. At that time, the situation was a bit chaotic," Juan Carlos Lentijo, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology, said. "They did not at that time yet achieved real stable situation, while now what we have seen is dramatically different."

As requested by the Government of Japan, the team examined a wide variety of issues related to decommissioning the tsunami-stricken power plant, focusing particularly on the safety and technological aspects of decommissioning, radioactive waste management, control of underground water and accumulation of contaminated water at the site and the planning and the implementation of pre-decommissioning and decommissioning activities, including removal of spent and damaged fuel. The mission also reviewed progress achieved since two earlier missions, conducted in April and November to December 2013.

IAEA reps identified major areas of challenge in the months ahead, particularly contaminated water and lingering questions about how and where to dispose of spent or damaged fuel rods.

"At this moment there is a challenging issue related with the ingression of underground water to the main buildings and this issue is producing a huge amount of contaminated water," Lentijo stated. "To ensure the stabilization in the short-term it is necessary to deal with this issue in a safe manner, of course, to prevent this amount of water to be growing. But for the long-term the most challenging issue in an accident in a nuclear plant is the need to remove the damaged fuel or the nuclear fuel debris."

One of the plant's executives suggested that efforts have been made easier due to consistent flow of best practices and information vis-à-vis IAEA and its member states.

"The decommissioning work that we are undertaking at Fukushima Daiichi is something that nobody has ever done before. Conducting such work safely and steadily is not something that TEPCO can do alone," Naohiro Masuda, TEPCO Chief Decommissioning Officer, said. "For this, we need the wisdom from all the world and for this, an organization like the IAEA plays a very important role. Because of the IAEA, that global wisdom comes to us and the IAEA also checks that the work we are doing is correct and makes suggestions about other ways of doing things. As we provide information to the IAEA, we can also receive the wisdom from around the world through the IAEA."

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