At a regular meeting on May 10, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) received an explanation from its secretariat about a review conducted earlier this year, in January, by a mission team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on regulatory aspects of the handling of water from TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi. The water had been treated by the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) to purify it of radioactive substances other than tritium to levels below the regulatory standards.
The January IAEA mission was headed by Gustavo CARUSO, director and coordinator for the Fukushima ALPS project (within the IAEA’s Nuclear Safety and Security Department).
Among the several reviews that have been conducted by the IAEA since the Japanese government requested its support in July 2021, the report this time dealt with a review of regulations for the handling of the ALPS-treated water. The January 2023 review was the IAEA’s second regulatory review, following one in March 2022.
After discussions with the NRA and an on-site visit, Mission Leader Caruso praised the Japanese regulatory authority, saying that most issues noted by the previous mission had been carefully considered, and that a report would be released publicly within three months.
That report—the current one—considers five technical topics, including responsibilities and functions of the government, major principles and safety objectives, and the authorization process. Designated a progress report, it does not reach any ultimate conclusions, but says that the IAEA would continue monitoring regulatory processes and activities according to international safety standards before the start of the offshore release of the ALPS-treated water, as well as after the release.
The IAEA plans to publish a comprehensive report covering all aspects of its reviews by the middle of this year. According to a person responsible in the NRA secretariat, a mission will visit Japan as early as the end of May. The Japanese government expects to start the offshore release of the ALPS-treated water sometime during the spring or summer.
Additionally, at the May 10 meeting, the NRA approved changes to a plan—for which the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) applied last fall—for the Fukushima Daiichi’s decommissioning. According to the revised plan, the release of the ALPS-treated water into the sea will involve the measurement and assessment of 29 nuclides as well as tritium to confirm that they satisfy release requirements.
Meanwhile, the digging of a 1,031-meter tunnel was completed on April 26 toward the installation of a dilution and discharge facility for the ALPS-treated water at Fukushima Daiichi.