Japan, China Clash over Fukushima Treated Water at IAEA Meeting

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Tanks are seen at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Vienna, Sept. 25 (Jiji Press)—Japan and China sparred over the release of tritium-containing treated water from the meltdown-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant into the sea at an annual meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency that opened Monday.

A total of 177 member countries will discuss issues such as nuclear development by Iran and North Korea at the nuclear watchdog’s five-day general conference through Friday at its headquarters in Vienna.

In a general debate speech delivered at the meeting, the Chinese representative referred to the treated water from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s plant in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, as “nuclear-contaminated water,” and reiterated the country’s opposition to the discharge.

“There is great uncertainty of the accumulated oceanic effects of the large amount of radionuclides discharged into the sea,” the representative said, arguing that Japan was not providing sufficient information.

Japanese science and technology policy minister Sanae Takaichi took to the podium to refute the claims, saying in her speech, “China made a statement…that is not based on scientific evidence.”

“The operation (of releasing treated water) is being processed safely,” meeting international standards, Takaichi said, promising that Tokyo will continue to be transparent in providing information.

On the sidelines of the IAEA meeting, Takaichi told reporters that she felt Japan’s water discharge “had broad-based support.” The first round of the water release was completed earlier this month.

Takaichi added that she was “able to confirm the understanding and support” of the United States and France at meetings with leaders of the two countries’ nuclear regulatory bodies the same day.

At the IAEA meeting, the Bulgarian representative praised Japan’s transparency and cooperation with the IAEA over the water release, while representatives from Denmark and the Czech Republic also expressed support.

The South Korean representative said, “We sincerely expect the IAEA to continue to effectively monitor” the water discharge.

Earlier in the general conference, IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said the watchdog conducts independent monitoring and evaluation of the water release.

“We will continue until the last drop for decades to come, to make sure that no harm will come out of this important operation,” he said.

The IAEA released a report in July concluding that the water discharge plan was consistent with international safety standards.

The United States, the European Union and Venezuela, which is close to China, did not mention the Fukushima water release in their speeches expressing their main concerns on Monday. But there was much criticism of Russia’s occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.

Thirty-four countries also including Spain, which represented the European Union, made general debate speeches at the IAEA meeting Friday.

Member states also formally approved the reappointment of Grossi, whose current four-year term as the agency’s head expires in December.