Taiwan seeks to join U.N. mission monitoring Japan wastewater plan

04/21/2021 05:33 PM
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The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Kyodo News photo
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Kyodo News photo

Taipei, April 21 (CNA) Taiwan will seek to join an international mission to be deployed by the United Nations' nuclear watchdog to monitor Japan's plans to dump treated radioactive water into the ocean, Minister of the Atomic Energy Council (AEC) Hsieh Shou-shing (謝曉星) said Wednesday.

Even though Taiwan is not a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), nor a U.N. member, the minister said he was optimistic the country would be included in the IAEA-led mission, during a legislative session.

According to Hsieh, the South Korean government, which also strongly opposes Japan's decision, is seeking to have its representatives included in the IAEA mission, in order to monitor the disposal of Japan's nuclear wastewater.

On April 13, the Japanese authorities announced their decision to release treated radioactive water from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean, noting that the discharge will not begin for another two years.

Nearly 1.3 million tons of radioactive water is currently stored in huge tanks owned by the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., according to a Reuters report.

Japan said the wastewater will be treated and diluted before being discharged into the ocean, but will still contain tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen with a 12.3-year half-life that occurs naturally in trace amounts in seawater and the atmosphere.

The announcement has been criticized by Japan's fishermen and civic groups, as well as neighboring countries such as China and Taiwan. The fear is that the radioactive water will contaminate the marine environment, thus negatively impacting the fishing industry and human health.

On the other hand, the IAEA has publicly backed Japan's disposal plan, saying "the method is both technically feasible and in line with international practice."

The IAEA also said on April 13 it would dispatch an expert mission to "review the country's plans and activities against IAEA safety standards" as requested by Japan.

The wastewater was used to cool melted fuel rods in three nuclear reactors damaged after a major earthquake and a subsequent tsunami in 2011, and according to Hsieh, cannot be compared to the wastewater of normal nuclear power plants.

Several countries, including Taiwan, have a history of releasing nuclear wastewater into the ocean. However, Hsieh said, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered core meltdowns at the time, and its wastewater is expected to contain more complex materials than standard wastewater.

(By Wu Chia-jung and Teng Pei-ju)

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