Japan’s decision to release “treated” radioactive water from its Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea in two years has triggered calls for an international tribunal over the issue.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in told new Japanese ambassador Koichi Aiboshi in Seoul on Wednesday that there is great concern among South Koreans, as the two nations are geographically close to each other and share the sea, Yonhap news reported.
Japan said Tuesday that it had decided to dispose of more than one million tons of contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi plant, more than a decade after a major accident at the facility.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced his government’s decision following a cabinet meeting and said that disposing of the treated water is an inevitable issue in the decommissioning of the plant.
The plan will be implemented by ensuring broad and firm steps to prevent damage, he stressed.
Moon has asked his officials to “proactively consider bringing the matter to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea,” thus effectively seeking international mediation over the issue.
China also slammed Japan, which has received US support over the issue.
“Japan and the US claim that the treated nuclear wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant is in accordance with international safety standards and even drinkable. Then why don’t they keep the water for themselves? Or maybe ship it to the US?” said Hua Chunying, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman. “Of course, better have an international assessment before they drink.”
Zhao Lijian, another Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the Pacific Ocean “is not Japan’s sewer!”
“Has Japan really considered concerns at home and abroad? Is Japan’s move in accordance with international law? Does the dumping of Fukushima wastewater meet international standards?” he added, according to the Chinese daily the Global Times.
‘Pacific at risk’
Amnesty International also called on the New Zealand government to oppose the move.
“It is absolutely abhorrent that people’s rights are being put at risk this way. The human right to health, water, food and to life itself are all at stake by events such as this. This must not be allowed to go ahead. Thankfully, we do have some time to turn this around, and that gives me hope,” said Lisa Woods, Campaign Director of Amnesty International in New Zealand.
Woods said the Pacific region “will be especially at risk.”
“This is going to risk the rights of many, including people in Japan and others in the Pacific. We do not know what the ramifications might be in the future. This must not go ahead,” she added, asking the government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to oppose the move.
Taiwan also expressed its opposition to Japan’s “unilateral decision to release tons of treated radioactive water” into the sea.
Japan should not “insist on going it alone” before having a clear idea of the implications of such an action, said Taiwanese government spokesman Lo Ping-cheng.
IAEA to work with Japan
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement that it will “work closely” with Japan, which is preparing to release a million tons of contaminated seawater used to cool the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant.
IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said “Japan’s solution was both technically feasible and in line with international practice.”
He said the agency is also ready “to provide technical support in monitoring and reviewing the plan’s safe and transparent implementation.”
“Controlled water discharges into the sea are routine practice for operating nuclear power plants in the world after safety and environmental impact assessments,” the IAEA chief noted.
“Today’s decision by the government of Japan is a milestone that will help pave the way for continued progress in the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant,” said Grossi, while also underlining that “the large amount of water” at Fukushima made this a “unique and complex case.”
“Tanks with the water occupy large areas of the site, and water management, including the disposal of the treated water in a safe and transparent manner involving all stakeholders, is of key importance for the sustainability of these decommissioning activities,” he added.
The Japanese premier had said that the IAEA and other third-party organizations will be involved in the process to observe that the plan of releasing the treated water into the sea “is carried out with transparency.”
Suga said on Tuesday that the release plan is also based on the IAEA’s scientific principles.
Water containing tritium to be diluted
The radioactive materials formed in pure water, which functions as a coolant of the reactors, are decomposed except for the tritium material thanks to the Advanced Liquid Processing System.
According to the plan, the water containing the element tritium will be diluted at the level of 1,500 becquerels per liter. Thus, the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), will be able to discharge the water, which is increasing day by day, into the sea periodically.
TEPCO estimates that if the water stored in the plant is not released, the facility will fill its storage tank capacity by autumn 2022 at the latest.
The process of discharging the water into the sea is expected to take at least two years.