Environment groups worldwide condemn Japan over planned release of Fukushima water

Posted on : 2021-04-13 16:45 KST Modified on : 2021-04-13 16:45 KST
The groups submitted a letter to the Japanese government insisting that the ocean release of the contaminated water be stopped
The storage capacity for the contaminated water is expected to run out by the summer of 2022. (Yonhap News)
The storage capacity for the contaminated water is expected to run out by the summer of 2022. (Yonhap News)

The Japanese government’s finalization of plans to release contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plant into the ocean is prompting a growing outcry from people around the world who oppose the measure.

On Monday, 311 environment groups from 24 countries announced that they had submitted a letter to the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) insisting that the contaminated water from Fukushima should not be released into the ocean.

They included a number of South Korean environment groups such as the Korea Federation for Environmental Movements, Green Korea, and Korea Radiation Watch. Around 65,000 residents in different countries signed the letter.

Submitted by an organization of international environment groups titled the “International Signature Campaign Against the Discharge of Contaminated Water and Calling for the Discontinuation of Nuclear Power Plants Now!,” the letter said, “Japanese citizens, from Fukushima Prefecture and beyond, are strongly opposed to this plan [for the release of contaminated water].”

“Opposition to the release of contaminated water has triggered much concern and opposition among citizenry overseas as well, including those from neighboring countries,” it added.

“Contaminated water from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant has already exceeded 1.24 million tons. We are deeply concerned about the adverse effects the water will have on the human body by way of consuming fish and shellfish, which are staples in the region’s diet,” it continued.

“We demand the Japanese government keep the contaminated water stored in the tanks until the water’s levels of radioactivity are significantly reduced,” it said.

The same day, the international environment group Greenpeace also submitted 183,754 petitions to METI from people worldwide, calling for the Japanese government to cancel its plans for the water’s discharge.

A failure to properly disclose information about the water’s release has been another issue.

“Ocean water doesn’t stay concentrated in one place. We need to see this is a case of discharging [contaminated water] into all of the world’s seas,” said Lee Young-gyeong, secretary-general of the group Energy Justice Actions.

“In a sense, the failure to disclose information about how contaminated the water is and how much purification is being done has contributed to growing anxieties,” she explained.

Choi Gyeong-sook of Korea Radiation Watch said, “The Japanese government claims that the contaminated water is safe to discharge because it’s been diluted with more water, but that doesn’t make sense.”

“Even if you water it down more, the radioactive material is just going to travel through the sea until its half-life is over unless there is some change to the total volume,” she said.

Some observers are insisting that some alternative to releasing the water into the ocean needs to be found.

“The treatment costs are more expensive than an ocean release, but one approach would be to solidify the contaminated water with mortar,” said Lee.

“It’s not like there aren’t other possible approaches. The Japanese government wants to go ahead with the ocean release approach because of economic issues,” she added.

Choi said, “The Japanese government is claiming it doesn’t have anywhere left to store the contaminated water, but they can just set up more tanks.”

“Even in Japan, people are insisting that they at least wait until the radioactive materials’ half-life has passed, rather than releasing it right now,” she noted.

NHK and other Japanese news outlets reported that the Japanese government finalized plans for the ocean release of contaminated water from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant during a Tuesday meeting of related Cabinet ministries.

The Japanese government has said that it plans to discharge the water after using an advanced liquid processing system to remove multi-nuclides, reducing 62 forms of radioactive material to below threshold levels.

In the case of tritium, a hydrogen isotope with similar properties to water, it reportedly plans to use water for dilution due to the inability to filter the substance out with purification equipment.

By Kim Min-je, staff reporter

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

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