IAEA sees continued progress at Fukushima Daiichi: Regulation and safety


August 27, 2021

Conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant site have improved since a review in 2018 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded following its fifth review of Japan’s plans and activities for decommission the plant. The IAEA team of experts reviewed the current situation at the site and future plans in areas such as spent fuel disposal and recovery of fuel debris, radioactive waste, water and site management.

Review team leader Christophe Xerri visited the Fukushima Daiichi site under strict COVID-19 protection measures to gain first-hand information on conditions there and progress towards the decommissioning of the site (Image: Tepco)

The 12-member team – including nine from the IAEA and one from Indonesia, the United Kingdom and the United States – carried out a two-month review mission from June 30 to August 27. The mission, which followed two previous reviews in 2013, one in 2015 and one in 2018, was carried out at the request of the Japanese government. The review included a combination of online discussions, face-to-face meetings in Vienna and Tokyo, and a visit to the Fukushima Daiichi site.

The team said Japan has made significant progress since the accident by moving from an emergency to a stable situation, managing day-to-day activities at the site, reducing risks to the workforce. work and the environment and planning decommissioning with a systematic industrial approach.

Site conditions have further improved since the previous IAEA review in 2018, with decreased production of contaminated water, safe draining of a spent fuel pool, better understanding of reactor fuel debris , new waste management facilities and measures against extreme tsunamis. and earthquakes. However, the decommissioning environment remains complex and challenging, the team added.

The latest review came just months after Japan decided in April how to dispose of the large amounts of treated water that has accumulated at the site since the accident. The 2018 mission had advised Japan to take an urgent decision on the matter, and this year’s mission welcomed a decision that was made, saying it would facilitate the entire decommissioning plan.

To help meet the future challenges of a decommissioning project that is expected to last for several decades, the review team encouraged Japan to start allocating sufficient resources to plan and prepare activities beyond the next 10 years until. ‘at the end of the work.


In its report to the Japanese authorities today, the team acknowledged a number of achievements since the 2018 mission, including: strengthening project management; risk reduction measures, such as the completion of the emptying of the spent fuel pool in Unit 3 in February; and, a better understanding of the presence of fuel debris in Units 1 to 3 and the development, with UK support, of a one-of-a-kind robotic arm for a fuel debris recovery test from the United Kingdom. unit 2 in 2022.

The review team encouraged Japan to continue to implement and improve its strategy for safe and effective decommissioning. Further development of human resources in areas such as project management will be vital in this regard, he said. The team of experts also suggested the application of circular economy principles to maximize efficiency and reduce waste.

The team noted that the information currently being collected on the fuel debris, as well as the experience that will be gained from their recovery from Unit 2, will be used in the development of options for the next steps, in particular regarding the units 1 and 3.

In addition, the team provided advice on more specific organizational and technical areas, including: developing planning scenarios for the entire decommissioning program, including all reactor units, and aging management. recently built support facilities on site; Complete characterization of fuel debris to identify key parameters that will allow the design of future strategies, including potential processing and conditioning, to manage these materials from initial storage to disposal; continue to develop management to optimize the use of site space and labor logistics; conduct surveys to assess how the public awareness program contributes to building public confidence in decommissioning activities; and strengthening international cooperation to ensure both that Japan benefits from external solutions and experience for safe and effective decommissioning and that it makes its knowledge and expertise available internationally. acquired as a result of the accident.

“The decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi is a particularly complex and demanding undertaking that requires substantial technical skills and expertise as well as large-scale project management and experience,” said team leader Christophe Xerri, director of the IAEA Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Division. Technology. “Japan has continued to make impressive progress since our previous review mission three years ago.

“A successful decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi over the next two to three decades will require disciplined program and project management to deal with significant risks and uncertainties, a continued focus on safety culture and new scientific and technological developments. “

Research and writing by World Nuclear News

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