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IAEA Delivers Final Report on Decommissioning Efforts at Fukushima Daiichi

TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station

IAEA experts visiting TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on 27 November 2013 looked at the fuel assembly removal process in Reactor Unit 4. Last week, TEPCO began moving nuclear fuel assemblies from Reactor Unit 4 to the Common Spent Fuel Pool. (Photo: G. Webb/IAEA)

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) delivered a report on 12 February 2014 to the government of Japan describing the findings of a two-part review of the nation's efforts to plan and implement the decommissioning of TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (NPS).

At Japan's request, the IAEA organized two expert teams to provide an independent review of Japan's Mid-and-Long-Term Roadmap towards the Decommissioning of TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Units 1-4. The first team visited Japan from 15 to 22 April 2013 and the second from 25 November to 4 December 2013.

"Japan has established a good foundation to improve its strategy and to allocate the necessary resources to conduct the safe decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi," said team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo, IAEA Director of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology. "The situation, however, remains very complex, and there will continue to be challenging issues that must be resolved to ensure the plant's long-term stability."

The expert teams examined a wide variety of issues relating to decommissioning the power plant, including Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO's) efforts to remove fuel assemblies from Reactor Unit 4's Spent Fuel Pool and to manage the growing volume of contaminated water at the site.

The teams held extensive discussions with senior officials from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and TEPCO. The teams also visited the nuclear accident site twice to gain first-hand information on the conditions at the power plant and the progress made toward decommissioning the facility.

The team also examined Japan's efforts to monitor radiation condition in the marine environment, including seawater, sediments and biota, which were further discussed with officials of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA).

"The team was impressed by the comprehensive monitoring system in place in Japan, both for seawater and for the products in the food chain. Additionally, the team observed that Japan introduced limits for food controls based on the international standard level. This systematic approach, together with the distribution restrictions by relevant local governments, ensures the safety of the marine fishery products in the market," Lentijo said.

The report acknowledges Japan's progress towards preparing Fukushima Daiichi NPS for decommissioning and offers technical and policy advice on a range of issues, including fuel removal efforts, contaminated water management, and waste storage.

As for the growing amounts of contaminated water at the site, the report advises that TEPCO should bolster its efforts to treat this water and then examine all options for its further management, including the possibility of resuming controlled discharges in compliance with authorized limits. To pursue this option, TEPCO should prepare appropriate safety and environmental impact assessments and submit them for regulatory review. In this context, the report also stresses that the NRA should further enhance the seawater monitoring programme by coordinating interlaboratory comparisons to ensure good harmonization of the environmental data.

Japan's request for the decommissioning missions came in the context of the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, endorsed by all IAEA Member States in September 2011. The Action Plan defines a programme of work to strengthen the global nuclear safety framework, and it encourages the use of peer review missions to take full advantage of worldwide experience.


-- by Greg Webb, IAEA Office of Public Information and Communication


(Note to Media: We encourage you to republish these stories and kindly request attribution to the IAEA)