An IAEA team of experts yesterday completed the fourth review mission of Japan’s efforts towards the decommissioning of Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (Tepco’s) damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which began on 5 November. The team comprised 13 senior experts, including nine from the IAEA and four others from Indonesia, Russia, the UK and the USA.
The mission, which followed two previous reviews in 2013 and one in 2015, examined a wide range of issues at Fukushima Daiichi. The team reviewed progress since the 2015 mission, the current situation on site and future plans in areas such as water management, removal of used fuel assemblies and retrieval of fuel debris, management of radioactive waste, and institutional and organisational matters.
The team concluded Japan has “made significant progress since the accident in March 2011, advancing from an emergency situation towards a stable situation now”. This achievement, it said, “will now allow Japan to focus more resources on detailed planning and implementation of decommissioning activities of the whole site, with considerations extended up to completion.”
In its preliminary summary report, the team acknowledged a number of accomplishments since the 2015 mission. These include that groundwater ingress into the reactor buildings of units 1-4 has been reduced through the repair of subdrains and construction of a frozen soil wall around them. In addition, storage and processing facilities have been constructed for the management of solid radioactive wastes. The team noted improved site working conditions, including a reduced need for full protective gear. It also said there has been progress towards the removal of used fuel from units 1-3, as well as remote investigations of fuel debris using robots.
“Given the severity of the challenges faced from the outset of the accident, one can only be impressed by the dedication and the achievements of the people involved,” said team leader Christophe Xerri, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology.