Xinhua Headlines: Concerns rage as Japan moves closer to discharging nuclear-contaminated wastewater-Xinhua

Xinhua Headlines: Concerns rage as Japan moves closer to discharging nuclear-contaminated wastewater

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2023-08-09 19:32:18

* Japan has been intensifying efforts to make final preparations to commence the discharge of nuclear-contaminated wastewater into the ocean, increasing the world's concern over its controversial plan.

* The discharge plan should be stopped as it is fundamentally different from the ordinary discharge of other nuclear plants in their daily operation, experts say.

TOKYO, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- The Japanese government intends to release nuclear-contaminated wastewater from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station to the sea at the end of August after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida meets with U.S. and South Korean presidents in the United States Aug. 18, according to local reports.

Following the release of the latest related report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Japanese government has been intensifying efforts to make final preparations for the discharge, sparking worldwide concerns about the controversial plan.

Although the IAEA report said that the discharge plan "is in conformity with the agreed international standards," IAEA chief Rafael Grossi stressed that the plan "is a national decision by the Government of Japan and that this report is neither a recommendation nor an endorsement of that policy."

The vague signal from the international nuclear watchdog intensified worldwide concerns about the consequences of dumping radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean, especially its impacts on the global marine environment and public health.

People protest against the Japanese government's plan to discharge nuclear-contaminated water into the sea in Fukushima, Japan, June 20, 2023. (Xinhua/Zhang Xiaoyu)


Japanese Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura visited Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, late last month to seek local fishery operators' understanding of the release, calling it "inevitable for the decommissioning of the plant and the reconstruction of Fukushima."

Haruhiko Terasawa, head of the Miyagi prefectural fisheries cooperative association, told reporters after the meeting that their opposition to the discharge plan has not changed.

Noting that the plan has already caused actual damage to local fishers, sparking declines in abalone and scallop prices, Terasawa urged the government to "remedy the current situation as the first step."

The government is using the reconstruction of Fukushima and the decommissioning of the plant as an excuse for the release, which will further hurt the people affected by the nuclear accident, Chiyo Oda, co-representative of the civic group "Stop Polluting the Sea," told Xinhua.

Despite many objections to the underwater tunnel construction and other preparations for the release, the Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, have been pushing for the ocean discharge plan, said Oda.

Oda pointed out that the Japanese government and TEPCO promised local fishermen in 2015 that they would not release the wastewater into the sea without gaining the understanding of concerned parties, but no decision has yet been made regarding what to do with that promise.

It will be an irreparable mistake for the government to arbitrarily continue to release radioactive materials into the Pacific Ocean for a long period of time, Oda said.

Masahide Kimura, member of a Japanese anti-nuclear campaign group, told Xinhua that many involved in the fishing industry and local residents of Fukushima have voiced their opposition.

Noting that after 12 years, the catch has finally recovered to about 20 percent of what it was before the 2011 accident, Kimura said, "we must never allow the ocean discharge," adding that it is absolutely unacceptable that Japan is the first country in the world to attempt to dump radioactive materials into the Pacific Ocean.

Fishermen attend a rally to protest against Japan's planned release of nuclear-contaminated wastewater into the ocean, in Boseong County, South Korea, on July 26, 2023. (Xinhua/Wang Yiliang)


Hideyuki Ban, co-director of the Tokyo-based Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, told Xinhua in an interview that after evaluating five methods of treating wastewater from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the Japanese government and TEPCO chose the cheapest and most achievable in the short term, while failing to investigate exactly what radioactive substances are in each wastewater storage tank and how much.

Ban believes there are other less polluting ways of treating the radioactive wastewater, such as mortar solidification, that are more practical than dumping it into the sea.

Hit by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and an ensuing tsunami on March 11, 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered core meltdowns that released radiation, resulting in a level-7 nuclear accident, the highest on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, and becoming the worst nuclear disaster after the Chernobyl accident.

To cool down the nuclear fuel in the reactor buildings, a massive amount of water has continued to be put into the related facilities, producing a massive amount of nuclear-contaminated wastewater, which is now stored in about 1,000 storage tanks.

The discharge plan should be stopped as it is fundamentally different from the ordinary discharge of other nuclear plants in their daily operation, the nuclear expert said.

The Fukushima plant has stored more than 1.3 million tons of nuclear-contaminated wastewater and TEPCO said the discharge is planned to continue for more than 30 years. If fish and shellfish are contaminated, it will ultimately affect the health of humans who are at the top of the food chain, he added.

Members of South Korean civic groups gather to voice their opposition to Japan's planned discharge of radioactive wastewater from its crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the sea, in Seoul, South Korea, July 8, 2023. (Xinhua/Wang Yiliang)


South Korean fishermen staged a maritime rally in the southern coastal county of Boseong recently to protest against the Japanese discharge plan, involving over 100 fishing boats with banners that read "Oppose Fukushima nuclear-contaminated wastewater discharge into the ocean," and "The ocean is not a dumping ground for nuclear-contaminated wastewater."

"The ocean is the home of our lives. I have lived all my life with gratitude to the ocean which is like family and a friend, and also my workplace... If Japan discharges Fukushima nuclear-contaminated wastewater, it will become a sea of death. Fishermen will also be dead," Kim Young-chul, executive chief of the Federation of Korean Fishermen's Associations, told Xinhua.

Nuclear-contaminated wastewater indiscriminately released into the ocean can find its way into the food chain, said David Krofcheck, a senior lecturer in Physics at the University of Auckland.

"Once in the food chain the long-lived nuclear fission heavy nuclei like cesium-137, strontium-90, and iodine-131 tend to concentrate in human muscle, bones and thyroid, respectively. Cancers can be the result," he said.

John Lee, chief executive of China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), said that Japan's discharge plan is unprecedented and will cause unavoidable risks to food safety and environment.

Should the Japanese side insist on proceeding with the discharge, the HKSAR government must put in place measures with a view to protecting food safety and safeguarding the health of citizens in Hong Kong, he said.

"Japan's plan to begin releasing the treated, contaminated cooling water into the Pacific Ocean is premature, and presently, ill-advised," said Robert Richmond, director of the Kewalo Marine Laboratory at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

"The peoples of the Pacific did not contribute to the present problems and have nothing to gain from Japan's plan for the contaminated water release over the next 30 years, but have much at risk for generations to come," Richmond said, adding that it is in violation of the precautionary principle as well as transboundary safety considerations.

(Video reporters: Li Guangzheng, Tu Yifan, Qian Zheng; Video editors: Ma Ruxuan, Luo Hui) 


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