By Zhong Sheng, People’s Daily
Recently, the Japanese government forcibly started discharging the nuclear-contaminated water from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the ocean, in total disregard of the opposition from the international community and turning a blind eye to the rights to health, development and environment of the Japanese people and people in the rest of the world. This has set a dangerous precedent in human history.
No matter how Japan tries to defend itself, it cannot evade responsibility for damaging the ecological environment and polluting the ocean.
For over two years, the legitimacy, legality and safety of Japan’s ocean discharge plan has been strongly questioned by the international community. Yet the Japanese side has constantly tried to create the false impression that discharging the nuclear-contaminated water is safe and harmless for the world.
On the very day Japan unilaterally commenced the discharge, Japanese media revealed that the Japanese government had planned to spend 70 billion yen (about $480 million) in dealing with negative information about the nuclear-contaminated water discharge, which further indicated Japan’s duplicity.
If the nuclear-contaminated water was truly “safe to drink” as proclaimed by Japan, there would be no need for the Japanese government to discharge it into the ocean against strong opposition. Outwardly, Japan touts the safety of ocean discharge, but secretly it conceals accidents, falsifies data, reneges on promises, and more. Such duplicity will only exacerbate Japan’s credibility deficit.
When forcibly pushing ahead with the discharge plan, Japan deliberately concealed the fact that it lacks the capability to ensure safety. According to recent Japanese media reports, highly radioactive substances failing to meet standards were detected in June this year in water pooled inside the bank surrounding the contaminated water tanks of the plant’s No.1 unit. However, it was not until recently that Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plant’s operator, disclosed investigation results showing that cracks in a hose used to transfer nuclear-contaminated water caused leaks.
This once again confirmed doubts about Japan’s ability to handle the nuclear-contaminated water. If Japan keeps having problems storing the water, how can it guarantee safety over the decades-long discharge of over 1.3 million tons into the ocean?
TEPCO has a history of concealment and data falsification. Reports show that TEPCO admitted in 2007 to have falsified data in 199 inspections at the Fukushima No.1 and No.2 plants since 1977, even concealing serious reactor accidents. After June 2011, TEPCO long claimed that no new nuclear-contaminated water was flowing into the ocean. But following revelations of a series of leaks in 2013, TEPCO admitted in July that year that highly concentrated radioactive water had been leaking into the sea. In February 2015, TEPCO was again exposed for hiding the facts when it was revealed that the company knew that high-concentration radioactive water had been continuously flowing from a drainage ditch into the sea since April 2014 but did not announce it or take any remedial action.
A Japanese journalist said that TEPCO routinely conceals facts and even releases false information regarding the nuclear accident and nuclear-contaminated water discharge.
Japan’s government also has a trust deficit regarding oversight and inspection of reactor safety. A 2011 UN report already revealed flaws like lax oversight and insufficient preparedness in Japan’s nuclear safety practices. With such irresponsible behaviors, how can Japan ensure the nuclear-contaminated water is handled in a science-based, safe and transparent manner?
The nuclear-contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant contains dozens of radionuclides, many of which cannot be treated effectively with existing technologies. Some long-lived radionuclides may spread with ocean currents and form a bioconcentration effect, which will cause potential hazards to the marine environment and human health.
Since trial operations began in 2013, problems have continuously occurred with Japan’s Advanced Liquid Processing System for treating the nuclear-contaminated water. The facility’s effectiveness and long-term reliability have not been verified by any third-party, and it cannot be guaranteed that treated water meets discharge standards.
A South Korean civic group survey showed 79 percent of respondents considered the claimed safety of Japan’s so-called “treated” nuclear-contaminated water “unreliable”. Concerns from all parties have factual basis.
In 2015, the Japanese government gave a written pledge to the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations, solemnly promising no disposal measures would be taken regarding the nuclear-contaminated water without the understanding of stakeholders. Japan did not adequately consult with stakeholders including neighboring countries and still unilaterally commenced ocean discharge despite strong opposition. This practice of saying one thing and doing another completely lacks credibility.
A Japanese proverb says trust is the foundation of all things. But regarding the nuclear-contaminated water issue, Japan’s credibility is completely bankrupt. The international community must urge Japan to correct its erroneous decision, halt the ocean discharge, communicate in good faith with neighboring countries, handle the nuclear-contaminated water responsibly, and accept strict international supervision.
(Zhong Sheng is a pen name often used by People’s Daily to express its views on foreign policy and international affairs.)