Voices from Around the Pacific Rim Oppose Oceanic Release of Fukushima Daiichi Contaminated Water

By Ban Hideyuki (CNIC Co-Director)

On December 17, 2022 “Don’t contaminate the oceans with radioactivity! International Forum: Voices of people around the Pacific Rim” was held online to oppose the oceanic release of (treated) contaminated water which is reported to begin in July 2023. The forum was organized by the Citizens’ Conference to Condemn Further Pollution of the Ocean (KOREUMI), and 188 people participated.

After a greeting from one of the members, Ms. Muto Ruiko, and a report on the situation to date, there were statements from a US NGO and IEER (Institute for Energy and Environmental Research), as well as from Taiwanese, Australian, Chinese, and Korean NGO members. Lastly, a panel discussion was held. Below, I report on the main points of the statements, especially that of IEER.

In her greeting, Ms. Muto started out by stating that she felt very sorry that the ocean was about to be contaminated again after vast amounts of radiation were washed into the sea by the Fukushima nuclear accident. Ms. Muto said that the sea is the common property of all living beings; it should not be contaminated by radiation, and we should all therefore pool our wisdom together to stop the oceanic release. After mentioning the activities and cries of concern of fishermen’s organizations, local governments and citizens’ organizations opposing the release, Ms. Muto concluded by saying that she would do her best to stop the releases.

Tsukuru Fors lives in Los Angeles, USA, and is one of the founders of the NGO Pacific Asian Nuclear-Free Peace Alliance (PANPA). At first, US media reported the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and Japanese government’s view on the oceanic release of contaminated water that it was safe, but media reports doubting the safety of the releases have appeared recently. Mothers for Peace are measuring seawater for radioactive substances along the California coast. Thus far, traces of radioactive cesium originating from the Fukushima accident were detected in 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2019. In June 2022, the Mothers initiated a campaign, called “Don’t Nuke the Pacific – Protect Our Ocean,” in which they walked along Santa Monica beach telling the crowds of people who were having fun there about TEPCO’s oceanic releases. People who had heard nothing about the releases took an interest when they were told about it, and the campaign turned out to be quite effective. People’s awareness was still at a very low level, and thinking it was important to tell them more, they are now planning to set up a booth with a display at Santa Monica beach on weekends. They also want to lobby local municipalities to pass a resolution opposing the releases, as well as putting pressure on major media outlets to cover the story. Moreover, Tsukuru was also positive about involving the Z generation, who are able to use SNS very skillfully, and is considering cooperation with a group that is working on the NPP contaminated water release issue in the US.

Dr. Arjun Makhijani, the president of IEER, gave a speech about the problems of the planned oceanic release. Around 2000, CNIC cooperated with IEER when several issues of the IEER newsletter Energy and Security were translated into Japanese.

Dr. Makhijani is one of five experts who were asked by the Pacific Islands Forum to assess the oceanic release plan. The other four experts are Dr. Ken Buesseler (Senior Scientist and Oceanographer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), Dr. Tony Hooker (Adelaide University Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Radiation Research, Education and Innovation), Dr. Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress (Researcher and part-time lecturer at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey), and Dr. Robert H. Richmond (Research Professor and Director of the Kewalo Marine Laboratory at the University of Hawaii at Manoa).

On August 10, 2022 (revised on November 23), the panel of experts released a memorandum* based on the analysis and evaluation of information and data provided in three meetings between the Japanese government and TEPCO (in one of which the IAEA was present as an observer), as well as the participation of several members of the panel of experts as observers in the presentation by and subsequent discussion with the IAEA Director General at the Pacific Islands Forum on July 6, 2022.

Having first clarified that his statements at this international forum were personal views, Dr. Makhijani focused especially on the following four items from among those in the memorandum.


  1. Deficiencies in the understanding and scientific methodology regarding the radioactive materials in the tanks

This is a sampling problem, as only 9 of 64 nuclides are routinely measured, and the data presented to the panel of experts showed a maximum of 19 nuclides. Only 30 liters of analytical samples are taken from each tank group at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and are usually taken from the batch just before the tank becomes completely filled. This method takes only a small amount from a mere 20% of the entire tank, and it can thus be said that the sample is unrepresentative. TEPCO did not respond when this was pointed out to them. It can only be said that this is wholly inadequate for making a case regarding the safety of oceanic releases.


  1. Questions remain as to whether ALPS is treating the various radioactive materials other than tritium in accordance with its supposed performance

The ratio of strontium-90 to cesium-137 would normally be constant, but data shows that there is dispersion in the ratio values. When I asked TEPCO why that is, they gave no reply at all. The nuclides contained in the sludge at the bottom of the tank have not been measured. Moreover, tellurium-127 was detected and measured in 2019. The half-life of Te-127 is short, at 9.35 hours, and should have completely disappeared within months of the accident. I questioned TEPCO about why it was detected and what happened, but instead of responding they deleted the data. TEPCO’s handling of the data has been very dishonest.


  1. Deficiencies in ecosystem impact analysis

Repeated treatment using ALPS can never completely remove radionuclides. For example, even if trace amounts of strontium-90 are present, they accumulate in bone, but this is not adequately taken into consideration. The release of radioactive materials into the environment has intergenerational and transnational effects. What I am concerned about is that mitochondrial DNA will be damaged. These kinds of issues are not taken into account. When I pointed this out to TEPCO, they replied, “We’ll think about it,” but there was no follow-up. While TEPCO explains only the effects of radionuclides in drinking water, our concern is the impact on marine ecosystems. TEPCO’s approach is grossly inadequate on this point.


  1. Lack of full consideration for alternative proposals

Continuing tank storage is one alternative method that has been proposed. Another method is to make concrete with the treated water. There should also be biological decontamination techniques available, but consideration of these various alternative proposals is non-existent.

We raised these issues with the IAEA, and they responded that they did not need to face up to these issues now. We were very disappointed. This stance by the IAEA is a serious problem. We suspect that the IAEA has not followed a proper procedure for the decommissioning of the Fukushima nuclear reactors.

Subsequently, messages of solidarity were relayed from Australia (Tilman Ruff), Taiwan (Tsuei Su-hsin), China (Du Wen Jie) and South Korea (Sooyoung), who introduced citizens’ activities against oceanic releases in their respective countries. Finally, Betty Rasulet of the Marshall Islands Students’ Association (MISA) and a native of the Marshall Islands, showed a video made by MISA on the still continuing health effects of Pacific Ocean nuclear tests. She also expressed her strong opposition to further radioactive pollution of the Pacific by the oceanic release.

Each speaker expressed concern about the negative impact on the environmental ecosystem and future generations, and I felt that this was a forum that confirmed a common understanding and strengthened our sense of solidarity.


* Summary of Information and Data Gathered at Meetings and the Expert Panel’s Views of the Scientific Status of the Planned Release of Radioactively Contaminated Cooling Water from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Disaster, 10 August 2022.


This webinar can be watched in English at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5qmi8_I4EU


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