S. Korea, Japan hold working-level meeting on Seoul’s Fukushima inspection

May 12, 2023

South Korea and Japan held working-level consultations on Friday to discuss details of Seoul’s inspection of Tokyo’s plan to discharge contaminated water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.

The director-general-level meeting was held at Seoul’s foreign ministry, with the South Korean side headed by Yun Hyun-soo, head of the ministry’s bureau for climate change, energy, environment and scientific affairs, and the Japanese side led by Atsushi Kaifu, director-general of the Japanese foreign ministry’s disarmament, non-proliferation and science department.

The meeting was held to discuss details of the Seoul team’s on-site inspection activities from May 23-24, as agreed upon during a summit between President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Sunday.

Park Ku-yeon, the first deputy chief of the Office for Government Policy Coordination, told a press briefing earlier in the day that the inspection team will comprise some 20 experts in safety regulation.

The inspection comes amid concerns over possible health and environmental hazards from the release of more than 1 million tons of water from the wrecked plant.

The two countries appear to be at odds over the mission of the team. Seoul has said the inspection is aimed at checking the safety of the discharge process but Tokyo has suggested a limited scope for their activity.

Speaking at a press briefing earlier this week, Japanese Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said the inspection is intended to “help deepen understanding” about the safety of the release, not to evaluate or certify its safety.

The Fukushima plant has stored more than 1.3 million tons of water through a custom purification system known as the Advanced Liquid Processing System, since three reactors melted down after a powerful earthquake struck off the coast in March 2011.