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S. Korea to send 21-member team to Japan for Fukushima inspection

National 11:50 May 19, 2023

By Kim Han-joo

SEOUL, May 19 (Yonhap) -- A 21-member team of South Korean experts will make a six-day visit to Japan starting Sunday for an on-site inspection ahead of the planned release of radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean, the government said.

The delegation, headed by the chief of the country's nuclear safety commission, will review the safety of the entire process of discharge and check Tokyo's capability in analyzing radioactive materials, according to the Office for Government Policy Coordination (OPC).

The inspection visit was agreed upon in principle when President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida held a summit in Seoul earlier this month. South Koreans have been concerned about possible health and environmental hazards from the planned release of contaminated water.

Diplomats from the two countries have since worked out details of the visit.

Park Ku-yeon, the first deputy chief of the Office for Government Policy Coordination, speaks during a press briefing on May 19, 2023. (Yonhap)

Park Ku-yeon, the first deputy chief of the Office for Government Policy Coordination, speaks during a press briefing on May 19, 2023. (Yonhap)

Leading the team will be Nuclear Safety and Security Commission Chairperson Yoo Guk-hee, accompanied by 19 other experts in nuclear reactor and radiation sectors, as well as one expert in radiation in the marine environment, according to the OPC.

During the visit, the inspection team will first meet with officials from the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., to discuss the overall situation in detail.

The team will also examine the plant's custom purification system, known as ALPS, and assess the results of the water purification process through ALPS.

In addition to the government experts, a separate group of some 10 civilian experts will also be formed to review and support the inspection team's activities.

In March 2011, a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami damaged the Fukushima plant's cooling systems, resulting in the release of a large amount of radiation.

The plant currently stores over 1.3 million tons of water treated by ALPS. The water release is set to begin between spring and summer and will take decades to complete, in what Japanese officials claim is an unavoidable step in the decommissioning process.

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency is conducting a separate inspection. The agency has already released five reports and is scheduled to publish its final report on the multiyear safety review in late June.


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