Japan must continue efforts to deactivate Fukushima nuclear plant – UN agency

IAEA's Director of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology Juan Carlos Lentijo (right), speaks with Shift Superintendent Ikuo Izawain at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Photo: IAEA/Greg Webb

24 May 2013 – Although Japan has made progress towards stabilizing the damaged reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant crippled by a devastating earthquake two years ago, there are still issues to be resolved before it can begin its deactivation, the United Nations atomic agency said in a report released today.

The report was released after an expert team from the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) completed an initial review of Japan’s efforts to implement a Mid-and-Long-Term Roadmap to decommission the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. The visit was the first of what is planned to be a two-mission review, at the request of the Japanese Government.

“Our final report reflects that the Roadmap was developed early after the accident and that Japanese workers have achieved reasonable stable cooling of the damaged reactor cores and spent fuel pools,” said the Director of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology, Juan Carlos Lentijo.

“But the continuing accumulation of contaminated water at the site is influencing the stability of the situation and must be resolved in the near term before other recovery and decommissioning steps can begin.”

In March 2011, Japan was struck by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and forceful tsunami that killed more than 20,000 people in the eastern part of the country. The tsunami also slammed into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, disabling cooling systems and leading to fuel meltdowns in three of the six units. The incident was reported to be the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The report, which is available to the public online, acknowledges Japan’s accomplishments since the incident and provides advice on a range of issues, including overall strategy and planning, stakeholder involvement, and the management of reactor fuel.

Thirteen IAEA experts visited Japan in April, and met in Tokyo, the capital, with officials from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Tokyo Electric Power Company. The team also visited the nuclear accident site to gain first-hand information about conditions at the plant.

“I hope that Japan will benefit from our mission, and also that nuclear operators around the world can learn important lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi accident,” Mr. Lentijo said. “In this context, I’m pleased by the Government of Japan’s clear intention to make this report publicly available, which will contribute to disseminating the lessons learned to the international community.”

Japan’s request for the mission 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 advantage of worldwide experience.


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