(ATTN: UPDATES with more info throughout)
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).
"We plan to come up with more necessary measures for the safety and health of our people through the inspection that include examining the overall operation situation of the plant's processing and discharging system, as well as its ability to analyze radioactive materials," Park Ku-yeon, the first deputy chief of OPC, told a press conference.
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.
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, the Tokyo Electric Power Co., on Monday to discuss the overall situation in detail.
The team will then visit facilities at the plant Tuesday and Wednesday, and then have in depth discussions with Japanese officials Thursday based on their observations.
During the examination, the delegation will have an opportunity to examine the plant's custom purification system, known as ALPS, and assess the results of the water purification process through ALPS.
"We will focus on checking the ALPS facility and the condition of the ocean discharge facility, and further examine the analysis of contamination levels in ALPS-treated water," Yoo said.
The list of experts has been provided to Japan, but it has not been released to the public.
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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