G7 Ministers Support IAEA Review of Fukushima’s Treated Water Release

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, third right, speaks at the beginning of a joint news conference by Japan, Germany and Italy at the Group of Seven ministers’ meeting on climate, energy and environment in Sapporo on Sunday.

Environment ministers of the Group of Seven major powers refrained from saying they “welcome” Japan’s plan to release treated water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant into the sea, but said they “support the International Atomic Energy Agency’s independent review,” in a communique adopted Sunday after their meeting on climate, energy and environment in Sapporo.

Japan had initially proposed language stating that the G7 would “welcome” a transparent approach to ocean discharges, but walked back the wording after Germany — which has achieved a nuclear power phase-out Saturday — expressed reluctance.

The Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. plan to begin discharging treated water into the sea from this summer. The nuclear watchdog has viewed the safety of ocean discharge positively, but China and other countries oppose it.

Japan had hoped to appeal to international opinion by including positive language about the release in the joint statement. According to Japanese government sources, the use of “welcome” had been arranged for the communique at the negotiation stage, but Japan could not persuade Germany in the end.

After the communique was adopted, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said Sunday at a joint press conference with Germany and Italy, “Steady progress of decommissioning work — including ocean discharge of treated water — and Japan’s transparent efforts based on scientific evidence will be welcomed.”

In response, German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke said that the release of treated water was not welcomed.

Nishimura later explained that it was “a slip of the tongue” to have said that the release of treated water is welcomed.