VIENNA – The government Monday came under criticism from some nuclear experts at a briefing held on the sidelines of the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s annual assembly over its attempt to stem the leak of radioactive water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
At the meeting called by the government, a Slovenian expert said all Japan has been doing for a long period of time was storing contaminated water in tanks, questioning whether it has found a solution to the problem.
A French expert highlighted that the government sometimes did not immediately disclose information about leakage cases. The expert said Japan could have publicized information promptly and accurately through avenues such as Twitter.
Japanese officials said it takes time to identify locations of leaks and to block them. They also said that the government has considered releasing groundwater from mountains to the sea in order to reduce water flowing into reactor buildings, but has faced oppositions from fishermen concerned about radioactive contamination.
Japan has sought to enhance transparency in order to win the trust of the international community, the officials said.
The briefing was held on the fringe of the annual general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency that opened Monday in Vienna.
At the power plant crippled by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster in Fukushima Prefecture, about 400 tons of groundwater has been flowing into reactor buildings every day, creating a new source of pollution.
At the conference Ichita Yamamoto, Japan’s science and technology policy minister, tried to ease international concerns about continued leaks of radioactive water, assuring Tokyo’s full commitment to contain the tainted water crisis.
Yamamoto also pledged to redouble efforts to provide the international community with accurate information on the problem at the plant.
In his speech on the first day of the five-day annual gathering, Yamamoto said the Japanese government regards tackling the water crisis as its “most urgent task” and intends to spend ¥47 billion on necessary measures.
He also stressed Japanese water and food are safe to eat and drink thanks to stringent safety standards adopted after the nuclear accident. Effects of the water leaks are limited to a 0.3-sq. km area inside the Fukushima plant’s port, Yamamoto said in line with the government’s official view, pointing out radiation levels in seawater outside the port are lower than safety limits for drinking water set by the World Health Organization.
The minister called for the international community’s cooperation with Japan in sorting out the water problem and decommissioning tsunami-ravaged nuclear power reactors.
It is necessary to establish a global cooperation system that brings together technology and expertise from all over the world because the work to end the water crisis and the reactor decommissioning project needs to overcome unprecedented challenges, he said.
At the meeting, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano expressed the organization’s readiness to extend assistance to Japan, saying the water leak problem is “a matter of high priority that needs to be addressed urgently.”