Power glitch interrupts ocean discharge of contaminated water at Fukushima Nuclear Plant

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24th April 2024 – (Tokyo) The discharge of treated radioactive water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the ocean has been temporarily halted due to a power glitch, local news reports confirmed today. The suspension occurred as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) commenced its second operational review of the controversial water release process, which includes tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen.

This latest review by the IAEA, which began on Tuesday and is scheduled to conclude on Friday, involves extensive consultations with the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO), the plant’s operator. The review team, including experts from China and South Korea, plans to conduct an on-site inspection at the Fukushima facility and engage in discussions with TEPCO and Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority.

Gustavo Caruso, director of the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, emphasized the importance of the agency’s independent and scientific approach to the review process. “Our objective and scientific evaluation of the operations is crucial in fostering trust between Japan and the international community,” Caruso stated during the initial meeting in Tokyo.

The initiative to release the tritium-containing water began in August last year, following extensive treatment to reduce radioactivity to internationally accepted safety levels. An IAEA report issued after its initial review last October affirmed that the discharge complied with global safety standards, mitigating some international concerns.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant sustained severe damage during the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, resulting in meltdowns in three of its reactors and subsequent radioactive leaks. The decision to release the treated water into the ocean has been met with apprehension both domestically and internationally, prompting rigorous safety assessments and the involvement of the IAEA.

The temporary halt due to the power glitch underscores the complexities and challenges associated with decommissioning the Fukushima plant, a process expected to span decades. TEPCO has not specified the duration of the interruption, but it highlights the stringent safety protocols that govern the discharge process.

As the IAEA team proceeds with its review, findings from this second evaluation will be compiled into a comprehensive report focusing on the ongoing safety of the water release strategy. Caruso also expressed hopes that such expert reviews would continue over the coming years to ensure sustained oversight and safety compliance.