Storage tanks for radioactive water are seen at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, Nov. 13. A body of experts, Monday, proposed discharging the water into the Pacific Ocean or evaporating it, and the Japanese government is likely to accept one of the options.
December 24, 2019
Korea’s government remains idle while Japan makes plans to release radioactive water from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the Pacific Ocean.
Multiple government organizations here related to the issue are passing the buck to one another, with each saying it is not in charge of the matter.
On Monday, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry revealed a draft of an experts’ report on possible ways for it to deal with more than 1 million tons of contaminated water stored at the nuclear plant following the massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011 ― to discharge it into the ocean, evaporate it into the air or a combination of the two methods. The trade ministry will soon make a final decision after reviewing the draft.
These three ways are the most hazardous ― and at the same time cheapest ― options for the Japanese government to “manage” the contaminated material, according to Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at the German branch of Greenpeace.
Environmental groups both in Korea and Japan have also opposed the idea of discharging the water into the ocean, suggesting this action will not only have a devastating effect on marine life in the immediate region but also around the Pacific Rim.
However, related government bodies here have neither taken action in response to the report nor made any official announcements to clarify their positions.
Both Korea’s Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said they are not the ministries responsible for the issue. The environment ministry’s account contradicted what Environment Minister Cho Myung-rae said in early September, that he would do his best to ensure his Japanese counterpart will not discharge contaminated water into the ocean.
“As the environment ministry is in charge of the issue of fine dust coming from China, it should play an active role in the Fukushima water contamination issue as well,” Cho told reporters at the time.
The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission, which both the environment and fishery ministries pointed to as the main government body to deal with the issue, said it has not held any meetings to discuss Japan’s recent report.
The Office for Government Policy Coordination under the Prime Minister’s Secretariat said an official in charge of the matter went is on vacation and there is no one else to talk to about the issue.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs only repeated the same stance over the issue, saying it is confirming the facts with its Japanese counterpart about the draft report and it will put top priority on the people’s safety and cooperate with related government bodies and overseas organizations in solving the issue.
Contrary to the government’s inaction, civic groups reacted quickly.
Greenpeace released a statement, Monday, saying “there is no justification for additional, deliberate radioactive pollution of the marine environment or atmosphere.”
“Any decision to discharge over 1 million tons of highly radioactive water in the Pacific or into the atmosphere is clearly a direct concern to the people of Fukushima, including fisheries,” it said. “However, this is not just a domestic issue and the government of Japan must explain to the international community including its nearest neighbors in Asia why it advocates for discharging the water into the Pacific Ocean or releasing it into the atmosphere while failing to develop alternative solutions.”
Earlier in August, Burnie said in his column published in the Korean edition of The Economist that, as Japan’s closest neighbor, Korea’s marine life and ecosystem in its territorial waters and eventually the people themselves will be influenced directly by the radioactivity.
Ahn Jae-hun, energy team manager at Korea Federation for Environmental Movements, said the Japanese government is moving to dispose of the contaminated water via the easiest and cheapest method.
“We cannot forecast how much more contaminated water will be produced from the nuclear plant. If it really is discharged, it will affect the waters of neighboring countries. Once contaminated, restoring the water quality is difficult,” Ahn said. “The discharge is entirely inappropriate.”