The United States on Monday (local time) extended support to Japan in its decision to release contaminated water from the wrecked Fukushima atomic power station into the sea, stating that Tokyo appears to have adopted an approach in accordance with globally accepted nuclear safety standards.

Ned Price, US Department of State spokesperson in a press statement said, "The United States is aware that the Government of Japan (GOJ) examined several options related to the management of the treated water currently being stored onsite at the Fukushima Daiichi site. In this unique and challenging situation, Japan has weighed the options and effects, has been transparent about its decision, and appears to have adopted an approach in accordance with globally accepted nuclear safety standards. We look forward to the GOJ's continued coordination and communication as it monitors the effectiveness of this approach."


"On the one hand, such reports expose that the nuclear waste disposal measures taken by TEPCO and the Japanese government are inadequate and have many loopholes. On the other hand, they fully demonstrate that contaminated water treatment is very complicated and has far-reaching impacts, which require a proactive, cautious and responsible attitude," Wang said.

Japan has unilaterally decided to release the Fukushima nuclear wastewater into the sea before exhausting all safe ways of disposal, without fully disclosing relevant information and consulting with neighboring countries and the international community, which is an "extremely irresponsible, selfish and rash act," Wang pointed out.


There's two side of the story and they have very different views on the decision that was taken, but is there really a standard and protocol on how to handle nuclear waste water that Japan didn't follow, or there's no real breach of any standard or historical precedent and China is overreacting, and simply overreacting because Japan is an enemy?

  • 2
    There won't be "historical norms" for such an incident. I can't reach my sources now, but everything I've been reading about it (from the experts in the field) suggests that the whole affair with handling of this water is pretty much unprecedented; the handling as well as the "norms" themselves (and the international pressure) were insanely overcautious compared to many other risks involved.
    – Zeus
    Sep 9, 2021 at 1:13
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    I think that the Japanese official are creating this confusion with their lack of transparency. You can read everywhere that they want to release radioactive water, but what is the radioactive content? Some comments on the internet claimed that there were only tiny amounts of tritium which would pose a negligible threat. But they had no source to explain that claim.
    – FluidCode
    Sep 9, 2021 at 16:21
  • The single source accusation is highly questionable, if they can get other experts on board, then maybe the is a legit concern.
    – r13
    Sep 10, 2021 at 23:59

1 Answer 1


Does it conform to international norms and precedents?

I'm not sure that it's possible to answer this question, because there are no exact or recent precedents. Likewise, there are no norms, because this hasn't happened enough to establish norms - a normal response to a situation. There have only been a few civilian nuclear accidents in human history, and all were different, resulting in different responses by different countries in different geopolitical eras.

So here's a question it's possible to answer:

Does it conform to Japan's treaty obligations?


Japan is a signatory to at least two treaties relating to nuclear materials, the "Convention on Nuclear Safety" and the "Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management" (whew, that's a mouthful). These require the signatories to establish laws and governmental departments that can handle their nuclear materials sensibly, and to let the other signatories know what they're doing.

So, Japan believes that its plan is sensible and in compliance with its own laws (which are in turn compliant with the treaties), and the USA (another signatory) agrees, so yes, it looks quite legal.

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