The leader of the team that visited Japan, Director Christophe Xerri of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology, delivered a review report to State Minister Kiyoshi Ejima of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). The report includes important acknowledgments of progress in 26 areas.

The IAEA’s review mission was its fifth to Japan, the previous one having taken place in November 2018. This time, as part of precautions against COVID-19, only team leader Xerri and one other person actually visited the Fukushima Daiichi site on August 23 and 24 for on-site investigations. Prior to that, from the end of June to early August, the full team held online conferences with Japanese parties twice weekly.

Separately, IAEA senior officials will visit Japan in September  for a professional review of the safety of water treatment by the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS).

In an online press briefing at the Foreign Press Center on August 27, team leader Xerri welcomed—as an acknowledgement of progress—the earlier announcement by the Japanese government in April of its basic policy on handling the treated water, saying that it “would facilitate the entire decommissioning plan.”

In addition to the report’s acknowledgment of various instances of progress since the 2018 mission, including the emptying of the spent fuel pool at Unit 3—completed in February 2021—and the reduction of volumes of contaminated water from some 170 mˆ3/day in FY18 to around 140 mˆ3/day in FY20, Xerri praised the organization and project management of the Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination & Decommissioning Engineering Company. The company, he said, had shown a detailed plan and was exhibiting strong leadership on safety.

The IAEA team leader also spoke positively about the utilization of local industries, such as the dismantling of the exhaust stack for Units 1 and 2, completed in April 2020. That, he said, would contribute to creating local employment and economic revitalization.

Regarding the test removal of fuel debris—the first planned at Unit 2 for next year—IAEA’s Xerri said that the nature of the debris “must be understood comprehensively.” He emphasized the significance of sampling investigations using the one-of-a-kind robotic arm delivered from England to Japan in July. He also noted the future need for R&D in the areas of waste management and final disposal.