IAEA praises Fukushima decommissioning approach

05 December 2013

Japan has adopted a more proactive approach towards addressing the many complex challenges posed by the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, an international expert mission has concluded.

IAEA mission to FS Nov 2013 - 460 (IAEA)
The mission team review work to remove fuel assemblies from the storage pool of unit 4 (Image: IAEA)

The 19-member team assembled by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited Japan between 25 November and 4 December at the request of the country's government. The main purpose of the mission was to review efforts to plan and implement the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The same team made an earlier visit in April.

"The government of Japan and Tepco have increasingly adopted a more proactive attitude and approach towards addressing the many difficulties at the site."

The purpose of the latest mission was to conduct a more detailed review of Japan's roadmap for the decommissioning of the plant. It also reviewed specific topics agreed in the first mission, including the removal of used fuel from storage pools and contaminated water management issues.

The team has now presented a preliminary report of its review to Japan's minister of environment, trade and industry Toshimitsu Motegi. It will deliver its final report to Japan by the end of January 2014.

Substantial effort

In its preliminary report, the team of experts said that Japan has "achieved good progress" in improving its strategy and associated plans, as well as in allocating the necessary resources, for the decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi. The report noted that since the mission in April both the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) have "increasingly adopted a more proactive attitude and approach towards addressing the many difficulties at the site."

The team recognized the "substantial efforts" made by Tepco in transitioning the operating floor of unit 4 to a state that has allowed the first fuel assemblies to be removed from its storage pool. It also noted that the company has developed individual plans for the removal of fuel the storage pools of units 1 to 3. Debris removal from the operating floor of unit 3 has now been completed enabling remote decontamination work to start.

With regards to managing contaminated water at the site, the IAEA said that Japan should consider all options, including the possible resumption of controlled discharges to sea. The team said that Tepco should prepare safety and environmental impact assessments for this based on the limit of 1 mSv/year for the population, and to submit it to the Nuclear Regulation Authority for review. It noted that the release of water containing tritium would have "a very limited contribution to radiation exposure to individuals."

Team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo, the IAEA's director of nuclear fuel cycle and waste technology, said, "Japan has established a good foundation to improve its strategy and to allocate the necessary resources to conduct the safe decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi." However, he stresed, "The situation remains very complex, and there will continue to be very challenging issues that must be resolved to ensure the plant's long-term stability."

The IAEA acknowledged that Tepco has become more proactive in implementing public information and communication activities. However, it suggested the company revises its communication strategy by expanding its targeted stakeholders to include on-site staff and contractors. "As these workers are responsible for safely conducting all the activities at the power plant, it is critical that they have a clear understanding of plant conditions and how their work contributes to the plant's recovery," the report said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News