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(2nd LD) S. Korean experts to inspect radioactive water storage tanks, purification system at Fukushima plant

23:31 May 22, 2023

(ATTN: UPDATES with details in para 6)

TOKYO, May 22 (Yonhap) -- A team of South Korean experts will focus on examining storage tanks of radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant and its treatment system, the team's chief said Monday, amid lingering concerns about the safety of the water.

Nuclear Safety and Security Commission Chairperson Yoo Guk-hee, who heads the 21-member inspection team, made the remarks before his meeting with Japanese officials from Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the wrecked power plant, at Tokyo's foreign ministry.

He added that the experts will check with their "own eyes" the K4 tanks, designed to store and conduct measurements of radioactive substance, and "request required data" from the Japanese authorities.

Yoo told reporters that his team will "ensure that the inspection is substantial and sufficient."

It will also examine the plant's custom purification system, known as ALPS, and assess whether the treated water is safe enough to be released into the sea, Yoo said.

The team had a four-hour meeting with officials from Japan's industry ministry and the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), the country's top nuclear regulator, later in the day and presented a list of facilities that it wants to examine.

The team is scheduled to conduct the on-site inspection of the nuclear plant on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The delegation will then have "in-depth technical discussions" based on their findings Thursday before returning home the following day, according to officials.

The inspection -- the first independent one by South Korean experts -- is a follow-up to the summit between South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Seoul earlier this month amid a thaw in the two countries' relations badly frayed over historical disputes.

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 this summer and will take decades to complete, in what Japanese officials view as an unavoidable step in the decommissioning process.

Yoo Guk-hee (C), head of the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission, speaks to reporters at the Japanese foreign ministry building in Tokyo on May 22, 2023, before a meeting with Japanese officials to discuss a safety inspection of a nuclear power plant damaged by a 2011 earthquake. (Yonhap)

In this file photo, officials at Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, speak to journalists at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on Feb. 2, 2023. (Yonhap)



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