IAEA Begins Fukushima Seawater Radioactivity Monitoring for First Time Since Treated Water Released into Ocean; Chinese Ministry’s Institute Participating

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is seen in Fukushima Prefecture on Aug. 24, the first day treated water was released into the ocean.

The International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday began analyzing radioactivity in the vicinity of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant for the first time since treated water was discharged into the ocean from the crippled plant.

The U.N. agency selected a Chinese institute to join in its marine environmental monitoring effort, which it has conducted once to twice a year since 2014. This is the first time the Third Institute of Oceanography of China’s Natural Resources Ministry is participating in this type of IAEA sampling work since the 2011 nuclear accident at the plant, which is being decommissioned by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.

Besides staff from the IAEA and the Chinese institute, members of the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety of South Korea and Health Canada are also participating as third-party members.

The monitoring involves the IAEA parties, TEPCO and Japan’s Environment Ministry, Fisheries Agency and Nuclear Regulation Authority. Samples of seawater, marine sediment and fish and seaweed from the area around the plant are being taken and measured for radioactivity at each of the organizations through Oct. 23.

The IAEA will compile the data and issue a report at a later date.

The first batch of treated water was released from Aug. 24 through Sept. 11. The second round of treated water has been released since Oct. 5.

China has opposed the treated water release without scientific basis, suspending all imports of Japanese marine products.

Beijing has called for the establishment of a long-term, effective international monitoring system to confirm the safety of the marine environment but has not provided specific details about any such system.

The IAEA announced on Oct. 10 that the current monitoring includes the Chinese institute.

During a press conference the next day, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin continued to reiterate arguments that Beijing has made.

“As to the planned collection of marine samples near Fukushima next week and laboratories’ analysis and comparison of those samples, these are again carried out by the IAEA Secretariat under its bilateral arrangement with Japan,” he said, “and therefore fall short of an international monitoring arrangement with the full and substantive participation of all stakeholders that will stay effective for the long haul.”