FUKUSHIMA WATER CRISIS: Japan should request international collaboration, IAEA chief says

October 01, 2013

By TAKASHI KIDA/ Correspondent

VIENNA--Japan should stop working alone and seek international collaboration in dealing with the problem of radiation-contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said.

In an interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Amano said his agency was prepared to include an expert on marine pollution in the review team that is scheduled to be sent to Japan in autumn.

He also said other experts around the world can help alleviate the crisis at the Fukushima site; they’re just waiting for a request from Japan.

A former Foreign Ministry official, Amano, 66, was reappointed to his post at the September IAEA general conference.

Excerpts of the interview follow.

***

Question: The problem of radiation-contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant arose despite a warning by the IAEA review team dispatched in April about the importance of implementing measures. How do you view the situation?

Amano: While the objective of that review team was decommissioning the reactors in general, it also touched upon the importance of dealing with the contaminated water problem and recommended that Tokyo Electric Power Co. compile an overall plan.

I believe the (water) accident occurred while consideration was being given toward such a plan after the Japanese side accepted the recommendation.

Q: What would be the purpose of sending a second review team in autumn?

A: In addition to technical matters in dealing with the contaminated water, other important issues include strengthening monitoring, making efforts to minimize the effects should a leak occur and communicating with local residents.

We want to provide advice (to Japan) from an overall perspective so it can put together comprehensive measures.

During the September general conference, I spoke about the importance of maritime monitoring with (Ichita) Yamamoto, state minister in charge of science and technology, and (Shunichi) Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, who attended the conference.

Q: But isn’t Japan already conducting marine monitoring?

A: There are different ways to conduct monitoring, including the selection of test locations and depths. However, if the methods are inconsistent, it will be impossible to compare data. There is a need to conduct monitoring in line with international standards.

Because there is also the problem of negative publicity, it is insufficient for Japan to only say we conducted monitoring and will inform the world about the results.

I believe it is important to work together with international agencies from the planning stage and in accordance with international standards, and to also involve the international community in the transmission of information.

The style of the review team is to exchange views with IAEA specialists, international specialists and Japanese specialists in order to learn from each other. The IAEA’s Environment Laboratories in Monaco has long experience working on the marine environment as well as an extensive network with various nations. If Japan should make a request, we could include researchers from that lab (to the next research team).

Q: During the general conference, you made the evaluation that the Japanese government’s response had made an important step forward. Why was such an appraisal made?

A: It was an important first step for the government to announce its policy that the contaminated water problem was a very important one. But, I also believe there are still many details that must be worked out in the specific measures to be implemented.

Q: How do you view the criticism among experts of various nations who believe that measures were not implemented even though the importance of the contaminated water problem was known immediately after the nuclear accident two and a half years ago?

A: Other nations have two general attitudes toward the Fukushima nuclear accident. One is of wanting to cooperate while the other is dissatisfaction at the insufficient response to proposals for cooperation.

Rather than simply have Japan inform the world about what it is doing, it should take the position of wanting to work together with the international community and transmitting information along with the international community.

By TAKASHI KIDA/ Correspondent
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Yukiya Amano, the IAEA director-general (Takashi Kida)

Yukiya Amano, the IAEA director-general (Takashi Kida)

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  • Yukiya Amano, the IAEA director-general (Takashi Kida)

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