The International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday began its first safety review on Japan's discharge of treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea since it began in August.
The IAEA task force involves experts from 11 countries, including China and Russia, which have severely criticized the discharge and imposed bans on Japanese seafood imports.
The Japanese government said the same day that the bans are not based on scientific evidence and are "extremely regrettable," calling for an immediate lift of the restrictions.
The task force includes experts from Argentina, Australia, Britain, Canada, France, the Marshall Islands, South Korea, the United States and Vietnam.
They exchanged opinions with officials from Japan's industry ministry, the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., and the Nuclear Regulation Authority in Tokyo on the first day of the review, which will last through Friday.
Gustavo Caruso, the IAEA director who heads the task force, told the meeting that their "independent, impartial and science-based safety review based on international standards" will examine whether the discharge has been carried out safely in accordance with the plan.
The task force is scheduled to inspect discharge facilities at the disaster-hit plant on Wednesday, in addition to assessing the environment monitoring and a plan for the upcoming discharge rounds, which will last around 30 years or more.
The IAEA will publish a report on the first safety review by the end of the year, its officials said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, Japan's top government spokesman, said at a press conference that Tokyo will continue to inform the international community of how the water discharge is proceeding.
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters that the government will continue financially supporting the country's fishermen, who have expressed concerns that the water release erodes the reputation of seafood from Fukushima and nearby areas.
On Monday, TEPCO finished the second round of water discharge, which started on Oct. 5.
The plant operator has so far ejected about 15,600 tons of water treated with a liquid processing system that removes most radionuclides except tritium. The tritium is diluted, leaving it with a concentration level of one-40th of that permitted under Japanese safety standards.