ALPS treated water: Japan’s efforts with IAEA and international community

 ITO Takeshi,

I feel compelled to write this piece with regard to the article entitled “Japan’s disposal of the nuclear-contaminated water: A security threat” written by Dr. Mehmood-ul-Hassan Khan on February 28; I have to point out that the article is based on factual errors and asserts wrong conclusion.

First of all, Japan will never discharge “nuclear-contaminated water (as mentioned in the article)” that exceeds regulatory standards into the sea. There are two different types of water on the Fukushima Daiichi site. One is “contaminated water” generated on the site, and the other is “ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System) treated water,” which has almost all radioactive materials removed except tritium. What Japan is planning to discharge into the sea is the “ALPS treated water” and not the “contaminated water”. To avoid public confusion, it is important to understand proper terminology; the IAEA has also pointed out the importance of distinction between those terms.

“ALPS treated water” to be discharged will be sufficiently purified until the concentration of radioactive materials other than tritium is below the regulatory standard, and will be further diluted. After the dilution, the concentration of tritium will be 1/40 of the regulatory standard and 1/7 of the WHO drinking water standard, and the concentration of radioactive materials other than tritium will be less than 1% of the regulatory standard.

Asserting erroneously that Japan is planning to discharge “nuclear-contaminated water,” the article on February 28 argues that “Japan’s ‘self-centric’ and ‘irresponsible’ approach in this regard would potentially harm ‘human health’ and violates the human rights of all peoples.” This is baseless; the author writes without studying what is being planned. The water to be discharged meets regulatory standards. In more detail, the assessment of radiological environmental impacts was conducted in line with the international guidelines, taking into account the effect of bioaccumulation and long-term accumulation. It shows that the impact on humans and the environment would be minimal, considering biological concentration and long-term accumulation. The impact on humans is about 0.1% of the radiation dose received from a single dental x-ray. Furthermore, Japan will manage the annual discharge volume of tritium so it will not exceed 22 trillion Bq, which is equivalent to the target discharge management value for the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station before the accident. While other countries also discharge tritium into the sea in compliance with their own domestic laws and regulations, the amount of tritium in ALPS treated water is smaller than the amount of tritium discharged from most nuclear power plants and other facilities in other countries. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) will measure all water before dilution, and it will test again before discharging into the sea to ensure that water to be discharged meets regulatory standards. The IAEA Task Force, comprised of experts from the IAEA Secretariat and 11 internationally recognized including our neighboring countries appointed by the IAEA; Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, France, Marshall Islands, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam, will conduct corroboration of monitoring by TEPCO.

Furthermore, the article alleges that “last year’s review reports by the IAEA Task Force show that Japan’s discharge plan is not fully consistent with IAEA safety standards,” which is false. Fact shows the opposite. At the second safety review conducted last November, IAEA Director General Grossi stated that the Task Force’s findings were considered in depth and have been reflected in Japan’s revisions to the plan. It is flatly wrong to say that Japan’s plan is not consistent with IAEA safety standards.Finally, Dr. Khan mentioned Japan’s approach as “biased”, “not transparent” and “unscientific”. On the contrary, the Government of Japan has held briefing sessions for the diplomatic missions in Tokyo and similar meetings at international conferences including those organized by the IAEA in a “transparent” manner based on “scientific evidence,” with an emphasis on providing sufficient data. All data on the safety of ALPS treated water is available on TEPCO’s website. In addition, the reliability of the data will be corroborated through a review by the IAEA. Regarding the handling of ALPS treated water, the Government of Japan has been taking measures in strict compliance with international law and fully in line with IAEA international safety standards which have been developed in consultation with the IAEA Secretariat and all IAEA Member States, while undergoing reviews by the IAEA which is a specialized international organization for nuclear energy, and will continue to do so in the future. The Government of Japan will continue to provide information based on scientific evidence and facts to the international community in a highly transparent manner. To conclude, as Dr. Khan correctly described, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station was heavily damaged by a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Twelve years since then, the reconstruction of Fukushima is still on its way. The spread of false information and reputational damage that Dr. Khan’s article is likely to cause would deepen and prolong the suffering of the local people, who have already experienced unimaginable pain. I hope this article helps readers’ correct understanding of ALPS treated water and Japan’s efforts for reconstruction.


The writer is Minister/Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Japan in Pakistan