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Water discharged from nuclear plant can't harm humans, environment

 Japan's Ambassador to Kenya Okaniwa Ken. [Courtesy]

I have read The Standard's editorial titled “Tread carefully, Japan" published on September 1, 2023.  The editorial’s criticism against the discharge of water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the sea is groundless and scientifically inaccurate.

Japan started discharging the water which is treated through the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) and diluted on August 24, 2023. This is a matter of great economic, scientific, and environmental significance, and it is important that Kenyans have a clear understanding of the steps being taken by the Government of Japan.

I would like to correct some of the scientifically inaccurate claims which risk misleading the Kenyans on this subject.

First, Japan has never “brushed aside” concerns about the safety of the discharge. Instead, we have continued to provide necessary information and engage in consultations with the international community and the Japanese public, including the local stakeholders in Fukushima Prefecture.

For years, comprehensive studies on ALPS-treated water were conducted in consultation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the world’s authority on nuclear-related issues.

Since February 2022, the IAEA’s Task Force missions consisting of IAEA officials and international experts from 11 countries (Argentine, Australia, China, France, South Korea etc.) have visited Japan and conducted a series of “Safety Review” and a “Regulatory Review” on the ALPS Treated Water.

 The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. [AP photo]

On July 4, the IAEA published its Comprehensive Report, which concluded that, first, the approach to the discharge of the ALPS-treated water into the sea and associated activities was consistent with relevant international safety standards, and second, the radiological impact on humans and the environment was negligible. The report also stated that additional review and monitoring by the IAEA will continue after the discharge starts.

As for the water discharged after 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 1/100 of the regulatory standard. Tritium exists in nature and can be found in rain, sea and tap water as well as human bodies, but does not accumulate in the human bodies.

To gain further understanding, Japan has held over 1,500 meetings with interested parties domestically and internationally, and many have welcomed the IAEA's conclusion. The IAEA positively noted that Japan has provided information and has engaged in consultations with the interested parties including within Japan and abroad and has conducted significant outreach activities to ensure transparency. In Kenya, we have had a briefing session with diverse actors, including the media (on August 29), to explain the situation.

Japan will never allow any discharge of water into the sea that would endanger human health and the environment. I would like to highlight that Japan and Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) are conducting multi-layered monitoring, with the involvement of the IAEA, and should a problem be detected such as radioactive concentrations that exceed the standard, Japan will take appropriate measures, including suspension of the discharges. 

Since the discharge started on August 24, 2023, the results of monitoring by the Government of Japan and TEPCO have been made public in a timely manner both domestically and internationally. Japan is committed to providing information based on scientific evidence in a transparent and timely manner to people across the world.

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