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UN atomic agency chief visits Fukushima nuclear plant, supports wastewater release

The head of the U.N. atomic agency toured Japan’s tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant on Wednesday and said he is satisfied with still-contentious plans to release treated radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Mariano Grossi observed where the treated water will be sent through a pipeline to a coastal facility, where it will be highly diluted with seawater and receive a final test sampling. It will then be released 1,000 yards offshore through an undersea tunnel.

“I was satisfied with what I saw,” Grossi said after his tour of equipment at the plant for the planned discharge, which Japan hopes to begin this summer. “I don’t see any pending issues.”

The wastewater release still faces opposition in and outside Japan.

The IAEA, in its final report on the Fukushima plan released Tuesday, concluded that the treated wastewater, which will still contain a small amount of radioactivity, will be safer than international standards and its environmental and health impact would be negligible.

Local fishing organizations have rejected the plan because they worry their reputation will be damaged even if their catch isn’t contaminated. It is also opposed by groups in South Korea, China and some Pacific Island nations due to safety concerns and political reasons.

Fukushima’s fisheries association adopted a resolution on June 30 reaffirming its rejection of the plan.

Grossi is expected to also visit South Korea, New Zealand and the Cook Islands to ease concerns there. He said his intention is to explain what the IAEA, not Japan, is doing to ensure there is no problem.

In an effort to address concerns about fish and the marine environment, Grossi and Tomoaki Kobayakawa, president of the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, signed an agreement on a joint project to determine whether they are impacted by tritium, the only radionuclide officials say cannot be removed from the wastewater by treatment.

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“We once again urge the Japanese side to stop its ocean discharge plan, and earnestly dispose of the nuclear-contaminated water in a science-based, safe and transparent manner. If Japan insists on going ahead with the plan, it will have to bear all the consequences arising from this,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

Grossi said Wednesday he is aware of the Chinese position and takes any concern seriously. “China is a very important partner of the IAEA and we are in close contact,” he said.

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Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, after meeting with Grossi, said Japan will continue to provide “detailed explanations based on scientific evidence with a high degree of transparency both domestically and internationally.”

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