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    Japan's nuclear wastewater plan foolhardy

    February 7, 2023 - China Daily


      According to the current schedule of Tokyo Electric Power Company, which owns the now defunct Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the release of about 400,000 tons of radioactively contaminated wastewater into the ocean could begin as early as this spring or summer, in order to facilitate the devastated facility's planned dismantling around 2030. Although the release is imminent, there is time to think twice about that decision.

      "There should be no discharge until all parties verify through scientific means that (it) is safe," said Henry Puna, secretary-general of the Pacific Islands Forum, a group of 16 countries, at a recent forum. A panel of scientists, hired by the intergovernmental Pacific Islands Forum last year, said that there was no conclusive evidence that the discharge would be safe and that there were critical gaps in the information being provided by the Japanese government and TEPCO.

      TEPCO has promised that the radioactivity levels in the wastewater it is planning to discharge will be too low to pose a risk to marine life or humans, and said its plan has the blessing of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Japan's own Nuclear Regulation Authority and multiple independent institutions are also reportedly engaged to monitor the process. Yet the international scientific community remains unconvinced.

      Environmental concerns about using the ocean as a dumping site aside, there have been growing doubts about both the TEPCO data and effectiveness of its planned filtering and diluting procedures.

      Domestic civic groups in Japan have demanded TEPCO share detailed information about the planned release with the general public.

      Doing that certainly will be conducive to public understanding and sympathy at home, which may help sell the company's set agenda to begin releasing the controversial wastewater into the Pacific. After all, Japanese fishing industry and consumers, like many in neighboring countries and the broader international community, have expressed serious concerns about the company pressing ahead with its controversial release plan in defiance of strong opposition at home and abroad.

      The real imperative, however, is to rethink the widely disputed release and give serious thought to some apparently sensible alternatives the international scientific community has put forward. A more scientifically viable solution will benefit all parties concerned, Japan in particular.

      Although there may be disagreements on the options international scientists have come up with, there is one clear consensus: Do not release the wastewater with radionuclides before better security precautions are in place.


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