CNIC Statement: We strongly protest the government’s decision to begin the release of contaminated water into the ocean

23 August 2023

The government announced that if weather conditions permit, it will release  the radioactively contaminated water held at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the ocean on August 24. The government is pushing through the cabinet decision made on April 13, 2021 to release the contaminated water, at any cost.

The decision to release the contaminated water flies in the face of the written agreement with fishermen’s groups not to proceed with the release without their agreement and disregards the concerns of farmers and tourism businesses. The Chinese government has tightened its customs controls to measure the level of contamination of fishery products, and the Hong Kong government has said that it will ban imports of fishery products from 10 prefectures, including Tokyo, in response to the release. This decision to commence the release was made while real damage is already being done. Neither has the government responded to the doubts of experts commissioned by the Pacific Islands Forum.

The government hoped that it could rely on the authority of the IAEA to dispel doubts, but the IAEA’s report, comprehensive though it is, does not answer these doubts. On the contrary, it fails to vouch for the legitimacy of the government’s action to release the water. Furthermore, the IAEA report does not conduct an environmental impact assessment of the 30-year-long release. Nor does it require TEPCO or the Japanese government to do so. Nor has the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) taken this issue seriously, since there is no provision in the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law that requires the NRA to conduct an environmental impact assessment. And in a question-and-answer session between TEPCO and a citizens’ group on August 17, TEPCO admitted that it has not yet formulated a specific discharge plan as required. This is a discharge without a plan. The decision to release the radioactive materials into the Pacific Ocean is completely irresponsible.

TEPCO, the government, and the IAEA have all failed to properly consider and evaluate the environmental contamination caused by the long-term release of radioactive materials and the behavior of radioactive materials in the environment. For example, even if the amount of uranium and transuranium elements contained in the released contaminated water is small, the number of daughter nuclides will continue to increase in the marine environment according to their decay series until equilibrium is reached.

We do not accept the logic that diluting the water makes it safe, although it is claimed that it complies with concentration regulations.

The government’s decision violates the London Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter. It violates the London Convention because it intentionally dumps pollutant material that is presently stored in tanks, even though there are other ways to deal with it that avoid releasing it into the ocean. It also violates the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Article 194). The article requires that “every State shall use the best practicable means available to it to prevent, abate and control pollution of the marine environment from all sources.” Ocean discharges, which carry risks and cause “actual harm,” (not just bad rumors) are hardly the best approach.

The government’s argument on these various issues is that they are inevitable in order to proceed with the decommissioning of Fukushima. However, considering the difficulties of removing the melted down fuel debris, which has already been delayed and its condition is not yet known, it is necessary to take a reality-based approach, and in the face of the situation in Japan and abroad, it is reasonable and required now for the government to review its policy.

Instead of releasing the water, CNIC is calling for cement solidification of ALPS treated water. The government argues that the solidification process will cause the tritium to evaporate, but this leakage is incomparable to the total release that they are insisting on, and this leakage can be easily stopped.

The government’s unilateral reneging on its written promises is an act that is both irrational and unethical, and completely destroys trust not only in the government but in politics as well. Social norms will collapse. The government says that it will “take full responsibility for the situation, even if it takes decades to resolve,” but who can believe this?

Once again, we call for a halt to ocean discharge and a change in policy.

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