Japan’s decision to discharge radioactive contaminated wastewater into Pacific Ocean is dangerous | Kathmandu Tribune


Joseph Villamu

In the Pacific, Japan prides itself on being a pacifist nation. Their diplomats are known for being courteous, bowing respectfully to dignitaries and emphasizing that they have the interests of the Pacific at heart. Now the Pacific Islanders are very distressed and hope that Japan will not have the heart of aggression.

Despite strong opposition from Pacific leaders, the Japanese government has been firm that it is safe to discharge the treated radioactive waste from Fukushima into the Pacific Ocean, which is planned for 2023.

Pacific Islanders want Japan to pay attention to the harmful effects of radioactive dumping, which have a high probability of negatively affecting present and future generations of Pacific Islanders.

Even local Japanese fishermen strongly opposed the release of radioactive water. Toshiko Tanaka, a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing, pleaded: “On Earth we share one water source, and the water leaked from Japan will leak everywhere. I think this is very bad and must stop. All waste water must stay on land and cannot be drained.” into the ocean.”

Notably, the Pacific Ocean is the largest body of water on Earth with the greatest biomass of ecological, economic and cultural value. It holds 70% of the world’s fishery resources. The health of marine ecosystems is deteriorating due to climate change, resource overexploitation and pollution. Tepco’s discharge of radioactive wastewater will make the situation worse.

The 18-member Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) established a global nuclear expert group. Their research is to support Pacific nations’ deliberations on the matter.

“We agreed that we did not see enough information to support dumping radioactively contaminated water into the ocean,” the team noted. “Our first recommendation is to remove that option (dumping nuclear wastewater).”

There is great concern that the movement of ocean currents could allow pelagic fish to accumulate radionuclides in their systems and distribute them widely across the vast Pacific Ocean.

It should be understood that fish eating Japanese radioactive material swim very far. Unlike people who show their passports and visas before entering a country, fish don’t stop to get visas before entering Pacific national waters.

If the research used by Tepco to prove that radioactive waste water can be safely dumped in the Pacific is later found to be wrong, the Pacific peoples who depend on the sea for their food needs risk genocide. Consumption of contaminated sea food affects the next generation of Pacific Islanders.

PIF Secretary General Henry Puna emphasized: “Our ultimate goal is to protect the blue Pacific Ocean – our oceans, our environment and our people – from any further nuclear contamination. This is what we must leave to our children heritage.”

Henry Puner was invited to Japan to discuss the discharge of treated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean. There is deep concern that Japan, which facilitates the triennial Pacific Island Leaders’ Meeting (PALM), may use checkbook diplomacy to lure Pacific island leaders into agreeing to the dump by promising them more money.

For example, the President of the Federated States of Micronesia was later quoted as saying, “Our country no longer fears or worries about this issue (wastewater dumping)”.

The PIF expert panel, which has been trying to independently verify the safety of the operation, said they have yet to receive data proving its safety. Alarm bells were ringing because of discrepancies in the data presented. “We immediately noticed data issues that the team identified as serious red flags,” the team noted. “The team found that some of Tepco’s samples were insufficiently drawn, incomplete, and sometimes inconsistent and even biased.”

Some good news for the Pacific is that Japan has agreed to delay the discharge of treated nuclear wastewater into the Pacific until PIF scientific experts verify that it is safe to do so.

The new PIF President and Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown traveled to Japan as part of a PIF delegation to express their deep concern. He asked for a delay in Japan’s plan to dump waste water into the ocean.

Some have suggested that Japan needs to reform its foreign policy in the Pacific. At the 9th PALM on July 2, 2021, PIF leaders emphasized the importance of “ensuring international consultation, international law, and independent and verifiable scientific assessment of Japan’s declaration (dumping of radioactive wastewater)”.

Japan cannot unilaterally dump radioactive material. As a very powerful Asian nation, it has a moral responsibility to respect and protect the small island nations in the Pacific that are already suffering the negative effects of climate change. These countries depend on the ocean for nearly all food sources and national income to support their economies.

It is also clear that the dumping will also affect the entire world that sources seafood from the Pacific Ocean.

We hope that common sense will prevail in the end and that the right actions will be taken to ensure harmony in the Pacific environment. Joseph Veramu is Director of the South Pacific Islands Asia Institute.


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