Japan's industry minister visited the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant on Monday to see equipment that would be used in the planned release of treated radioactive water into the sea to ensure the safety of the controversial plan, while demonstrators, including many from South Korea, rallied against it.

The Japanese government defended the neutrality of the United Nations nuclear agency’s final report that concluded Japan’s water release plan met international safety standards, denying allegations that Japan pressured the International Atomic Energy Agency into publishing only favorable results.

Economy and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura visited the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant Monday morning to see key equipment, including an emergency shutdown system, days after the Japanese regulatory authority granted a permit for the operator and the IAEA said the environmental impact from the water release would be negligible.

The government and the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, have struggled with how to manage the massive amount of contaminated water that comes out of the melted reactors before it is filtered and stored in tanks. They want to release the water into the Pacific Ocean after further treatment and dilution with seawater, making it safer than international levels.

The government and TEPCO say the water must be removed to prevent any accidental leaks and make room for the plant’s decommissioning, and hope to start releasing the water this summer.

The plan is opposed by the Japanese fishing community, which worries about reputational damage, and groups in South Korea and China have also raised concerns.

On Monday, dozens of protesters, including South Korean lawmakers and activists, rallied outside the Prime Minister's Office, holding banners saying “Do not dump radioactive contaminated water into the sea.”

Ju Cheol Hyeon, a South Korean lawmaker, said Japan should apologize to the world for releasing “the Fukushima disaster high-level nuclear waste into the sea,” and demanded an immediate withdrawal of the plan.

“We cannot either understand or remain silent about the situation where Japan fails to dispose of the nuclear waste within its own territory and takes illegal and unethical actions of discharging (the water) into the sea,” he said.

#Japan defends neutrality of #IAEA report on Fukushima water release plan as minister visits plant. #Japan #Fukushima

Japan has sought support from the IAEA to increase transparency and ensure the plan meets international safety standards, in hopes of gaining credibility for the controversial plan.

Some opponents at home and neighboring South Korea have accused Japan, one of the top donors to the IAEA, of pressuring the agency into publishing only positive reviews in its report.

Japanese officials have said such accusations are groundless. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a news conference that IAEA, like other international organizations, is funded by contributions from member nations and that it is only natural that its staff includes Japanese nationals. Matsuno said Japan accounts for 7.7% of the IAEA budget — half that of China.

“The claim that cites Japanese funding and staffing at the IAEA to question the neutrality of the IAEA final report is not only completely missing the target but also shakes the significance of the existence of international organizations,” Matsuno said. “The government of Japan considers the report to be independent and neutral.”

Nishimura told reporters Friday that the government will determine when to start the water release “by ensuring the safety and taking into consideration the progress of measures against reputational damage.”

He said the government will discuss the safety measures and address concerns about reputational damage with fishing groups and other residents in the region. He vowed to respond to their concerns and requests.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, who was in Japan last week to submit his agency's final report to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and visit the plant, said the environmental and health impacts from the water release would be negligible under the plan, that radioactivity in the water would be almost undetectable and that the impact wouldn't cross borders.

A massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s cooling systems, causing three reactors to melt and contaminating their cooling water, which has leaked continuously. The water is collected, treated and stored in about 1,000 tanks, which will reach their capacity in early 2024.

Associated Press video journalist Ayaka McGill contributed to this report.

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I don't think Japan has much control over the IAEA. I also think they don't have to, because the IAEA is in effect kind of a pro-nuclear-power trade association which fairly consistently cannot be trusted on issues of nuclear risk. Can we say regulatory capture? They're predisposed to helping Japan out with something like this.

I've read lots about Fukushima over the years. Most recently I read an article which cited plenty of evidence from OTHER reports, that the supposedly treated and purified water is in fact almost entirely untreated and unpurified, and that like a lot of things they've done there, the process basically has not worked. Apparently only like 1-2% of contaminants have been removed.

Meanwhile, I find it downright surreal that this boss guy is defending dumping the water on the grounds that if they don't, it might leak. Oh, yeah, that would be SO much worse!

Ultimately this is probably all about money. Japan does not want to have to care for this water forever. It should. Or at least until someone can figure out how to remove the tritium from it, as well as the other radioisotopes.

Yes, the IAEA is an industry lobbyist, and not to be trusted. The nuclear industry is known for corruption, and some of its people in the USA have been convicted and sent to jail.

In his new book, “How Big Things Get Done”, Bent Flyvbjerg shows that of 25 project types studied the three that have the largest cost overruns are Nuclear Storage, Olympic Games and Nuclear Power. A lack of honesty about costs is likely responsible.