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‘Japan’s NRA should share information transparently, promptly’ on wastewater release

Uhm Jae-sik (Nuclear Safety and Security Commission)
Uhm Jae-sik (Nuclear Safety and Security Commission)

Japan announced on April 13 that it will release the contaminated water that has been stored at the Fukushima nuclear power station site into the ocean. Soon after the announcement, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission, the nuclear regulatory agency of Korea, expressed strong concern together with other ministries, including the Office for Government Policy Coordination, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, and the Ministry of Science and Technology, and said that it will seek every possible measure with public safety as its top priority.

As part of its efforts, the NSSC sent a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Japan (NRA) on April 14, expressing the concerns of the Korean people, and urged the NRA to take an objective and independent stance when it reviews the plan of Tokyo Electric Power Co. to dispose of the contaminated water and share review results promptly and transparently.

The NSSC also sent a questionnaire letter on April 19 to inquire about the NRA’s review standards, procedures, and deadlines. The NSSC also demanded the NRA to promptly provide information on Tepco’s disposal plan and to continuously verify the performance of the Advanced Liquid Processing System, and asked if the NRA has a plan for third-party verification.

The International Atomic Energy Agency and the International Commission on Radiological Protection have three fundamental principles of radiological protection.

First, any decision that alters the radiation exposure situation should do more good than harm (the principle of justification). Second, the likelihood of incurring exposures, the number of people exposed and the magnitude of their individual exposure should all be kept as low as reasonably achievable, taking into account economic and societal factors (the principle of optimization of protection). Third, the total dose to any individuals should not exceed the appropriate limits recommended by the ICRP (the principle of application of dose limits). For public exposure, the annual dose limit is set at 1 millisievert.

According to the principles, the way of handling the contaminated water should be justifiable and optimized in a way that reduces radiation exposure as much as possible over the course of disposal and the annual dose limit must be kept in any case.

The Japanese government, however, has never provided a valid explanation or scientific evidence on whether the contaminated water release fits the principle of justification and optimization among the three principles of radiological protection.

It only said on April 13 that it plans to dispose of the water below the discharge limits (dose limit). Needless to say, the discharge limits mentioned by Japan should be met in the process of discharge, and cannot be a reasonable explanation for justification or optimization.

The NSSC expects the NRA to respond transparently and promptly to our reasonable requests for information. The NRA, established after the Fukushima NPS accident, says on its website, “Bearing in mind that restoring public trust, in Japan and abroad, in the nation‘s nuclear regulatory organization is of utmost importance.”

To restore the trust of the neighboring countries from the impact of the Fukushima NPS accident, it will be one of its important missions to respond to our inquiries and requests for transparent and prompt information sharing as Korea is one of Japan’s closest neighboring countries.

The NSSC will continue to make the best efforts to protect the health and safety of the public as well as the marine environment for future generations through continuous monitoring of and requests for information on the process of the NRA’s review of the contaminated water disposal plan.

By Uhm Jae-sik

Uhm Jae-sik is the chairperson of Nuclear Safety and Security Commission. – Ed.

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