The government of Japan government has sought to reassure neighboring countries that contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant will be dealt with “appropriately”. There has been critisism of Japan, however, for lack of specific detail about treatment and release after an information session for foreign diplomats on November 21 that included representatives from 17 countries including nearby Taiwan, China and South Korea.
South Korea remains frustrated by lack of information and has attempted to raise the issue in the international community. The South Korea Nuclear Safety and Security Commission is seeking additional details in order to run their own studies on the radioactive concentration and the impact of such proposed release on the Pacific Ocean. South Korea is leading efforts at international coordination around proposed dumping in organizations like the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), International Maritime Organization (IMO), and World Health Organization (WHO).
Japan has subsequently (2 December) announced the removal of nuclear fuel debris from the Fukushima plant will begin in 2021, with removal of 4,741 fuel rods left inside the pools of nuclear reactors to be completed by 2031.
Since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) has stored radioactive cooling water in tanks at the site. It was announced in September that the utility will run out of storage space in 2022 and the environment minister revealed that water would be released into the Pacific Ocean. It is estimated that about 80 percent of the stored water would need to be treated prior to any release and purification treatment is ongoing.
Of particular concern is the concentration of tritium, which remains radioactive even after treatment. The Japanese government has presented data to support its assertion that once released the impact on water and air is “permissibly” small.