On April 13, 2021, the Government of Japan announced its basic policy, based on which the water treated by Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) at the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (FDNPS) will be discharged into the sea. This discharge will be conducted by fully taking into account the impact on the environment as well as the health and safety of people and will be based on the international standards and international practice. As Ambassador of Japan, a maritime nation which shares the Pacific Ocean with Palau, I would like to explain the safety of the discharge to dispel concerns among Palauan people.
First of all, let me be very clear that what will be discharged into the sea at the TEPCO’s FDNPS based on the abovementioned basic policy, while firmly ensuring utmost safety, is “ALPS treated water”, not “contaminated water”. The ALPS treated water is the water purified and processed from the contaminated water generated after the accident at the TEPCO’s FDNPS by a special purification system called the ALPS so that the radioactive materials other than tritium are removed to satisfy the national regulatory standards set based on the international standards. Tritium is a relative of hydrogen and exists widely in nature such as in rainwater, sea water, tap water and human body. Furthermore, the ALPS treated water will be diluted more than 100 times, prior to the discharge into the sea, to make concentration of tritium less than around 1/7 of the WHO guidelines for drinking water quality value, so that the concentration of all radioactive materials will be surely below the regulatory standards, which have no impact on the human body and environment. The discharge of tritium below the value of regulatory standards set by each country is actually being conducted in many countries, and no example of negative impact attributable to such discharge has been reported.
Figure: Simulation results of tritium concentrations in annual average, assuming that the ALPS treated water, containing 22 trillion Bq/year of tritium (the operational target value for discharge before the accident), is discharged continuously in offshore Fukushima. The result shows that the area where the level of the tritium exceeds the concentration level in the natural seawater (1Bq/L) is limited to within about 1.5 km offshore of FDNPS. (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry)
As for a safe method of handling the ALPS treated water, the Government of Japan selected discharge into the sea, which has successful precedents and allows secure and sound monitoring, based on the study by experts for more than six years. The IAEA, an international agency specialized in the atomic energy, also acknowledges that the discharge of the ALPS treated water into the sea is technically feasible and in line with international practice.
The discharge into the sea is envisaged to be started approximately after two years from the announcement of the basic policy, only after TEPCO, the company responsible for conducting the discharge, submits the detailed plan for handling and obtains the necessary approval from the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA). The Government of Japan and TEPCO have been conducting analysis from various perspectives about the impact on the environment by the discharge into the sea. Prior to the discharge, considering relevant international law and international practice, measures will be taken, to assess the potential impact on the marine environment based on scientific evidence. Furthermore, Japan will take measures to ascertain the impact on the environment while receiving reviews by the IAEA, and provide information to the international community.
The Government of Japan will continue to explain the status of TEPCO’s FDNPS and the consideration on handling of the ALPS treated water to the international community in a highly transparent manner based on scientific evidence. For further information, please refer to the link below which details the Government of Japan’s explanation (Ministry of Foreign Affairs: https://www.mofa.go.jp/dns/inec/page24e_000295.html / Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry: https://www.meti.go.jp/english/earthquake/nuclear/decommissioning/atw.html)
In the Ninth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM9) held on 2 July 2021, Prime Minister Suga reiterated that the discharge of the ALPS treated water would be conducted while firmly ensuring no harm to the environment and human health, and Japan would continue to provide Pacific island countries with explanations based on scientific evidence, in a highly transparent and timely manner and in close cooperation with the IAEA.
Japan, which shares the Pacific Ocean with Palau, has been receiving the benefit of the ocean from ancient times to the present and has the deepest understanding of the importance of the marine environment. Japan will never discharge the ALPS treated water in a manner that cannot ensure the safety including that of the environment and human health, and we will continue to provide necessary information on this issue. I would appreciate Palauan people’s understanding of the Government of Japan’s efforts.
Ambassador of Japan to
the Republic of Palau