SEOUL – It makes “absolute sense” that Japan’s plan to release treated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant is attracting great interest in the region, Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said on Sunday.
Mr Grossi also said he understands concerns remain about the plan, but added that an IAEA review published last week found it was “in line with international safety standards” if implemented as planned .
He met with members of South Korea’s opposition Democratic Party on Sunday, who expressed strong public concern over Japan’s plan and criticized the IAEA’s findings.
“The issue under discussion today has attracted a lot of interest, which makes perfect sense, because the actions and the way Japan will handle this… have important implications,” Grossi said at the meeting.
A member of the Democratic Party, who chairs a special committee on the issue, said the IAEA’s findings were “flaws” and that widespread public concerns about security in the country were “legitimate and reasonable”.
“We deeply regret that the IAEA has concluded that Japan’s plan to discharge contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant meets international standards,” committee chair Wi Seong-gon told Grossi.
When Grossi arrived in South Korea from Japan last Friday, he was met with angry protests from citizens’ groups and on Saturday he organized street rallies criticizing the plan.
South Korea’s government said Friday that it respected the IAEA’s report and that its own analysis found the release will not have “any significant impact” on its waters.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin criticized the move to dump the water on Wednesday and threatened action if the plan went ahead.
North Korea also criticized the IAEA’s support for Japan’s plan, calling it “unjust” and a demonstration of double standards, citing the work of the United Nations nuclear watchdog to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
The release of the purified water will have a “fatal negative impact on human life and safety and the ecological environment,” an official from Pyongyang’s environmental protection ministry said in a statement released by the official Korean Central News Agency.
“What matters is the unreasonable behavior of the IAEA actively patronizing and facilitating Japan’s planned release of nuclear-contaminated water, which is unimaginable,” the statement said.
North Korea has faced UN Security Council sanctions for its six underground nuclear tests. REUTERS