By Zhong Sheng, People’s Daily
On August 24th, the Japanese government unilaterally started releasing nuclear-contaminated water from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the ocean, in disregard of strong criticism and opposition from the international community.
Japan’s actions are blatantly transfer the risk of nuclear pollution to the rest of the world, prioritizing Japan’s own interests over the long-term well-being of regional and global populations.
It fully exposes Japan’s selfishness and arrogance, and will place the country in the defendant’s seat, facing long-term accusations and condemnation from the international community.
The ocean sustains humanity. Japan’s pushing for the ocean discharge plan is no doubt a huge gamble that ventures the global marine environment and people’s health.
For the past two years and more, the legitimacy, legality and safety of Japan’s ocean discharge plan has been questioned over and over again by the international community.
Japan has yet to address major international concerns such as the long-term reliability of the purification facility, the authenticity and accuracy of the nuclear-contaminated water data, and the effectiveness of the monitoring arrangement.
Yet it has painstakingly tried to create the illusion that discharging nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean is safe and harmless, and has even unreasonably blamed neighboring countries for expressing legitimate concerns. This shows Japan’s selfishness and arrogance.
Japan’s unilateral decision to discharge the nuclear-contaminated water has permanently labeled the country as a “saboteur of the ecological system” and “polluter of the global marine environment.”
This unilateral decision seriously deviates from basic international justice. The handling of the nuclear-contaminated water must be undertaken with an attitude and spirit reflecting profound responsibility to all of humanity. However, Japan’s actions completely contradict this.
The international community sees it clearly that Japan has not exhausted all safe ways of disposal, seriously addressed domestic and foreign doubts and opposition, or sincerely communicated with neighboring countries.
Japan chose the discharge plan based on economic considerations, and will impose unnecessary risks on neighboring countries and the world at large.
The Fukushima nuclear accident which took place 12 years ago was a major catastrophe that already caused the leakage of large amounts of radioactive substances into the ocean. There could be a man-made secondary disaster to the local people and the whole world if Japan chooses to dump the water into the ocean just to serve Japan’s selfish interests.
By unilaterally discharging the nuclear-contaminated water to gain short-term domestic benefits at the cost of damaging shared international interests, Japan shows a lack of benevolence and justice, and this will become a major stain of Japan that’s difficult to erase.
Japan’s unilateral decision to discharge the nuclear-contaminated water seriously violates the country’s international legal obligations.
Under general international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Japan has obligations to take all measures to prevent marine pollution, notify and fully consult with potentially affected countries, assess and monitor environmental impacts, take preventive measures to minimize danger, ensure transparency of information, and cooperate internationally.
Recently, Japan has frequently cited the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) report on the discharge plan, attempting to use it as a “pass” to discharge the nuclear-contaminated water.
It is known to all that the IAEA functions as an international organization that promotes safe, reliable and peaceful use of nuclear technology, and is not an appropriate body to assess the long-term impacts of nuclear-contaminated water on marine environment and biological health.
Moreover, Japan restricted the IAEA technical working group’s mandate from the start, rejecting assessment of other disposal options and not evaluating the effectiveness and reliability of the water treatment system.
Under these circumstances, the IAEA report cannot prove the legitimacy or legality of Japan’s discharge, nor does it absolve Japan of its moral responsibilities and international legal obligations. Japan’s attempts to use the report for whitewashing further exposes its lack of confidence and insincerity.
The ocean belongs to all humanity. To forcibly start the ocean discharge is an extremely selfish and irresponsible act in disregard of the global public interest.
The Japanese side must understand that false propaganda cannot whitewash its wrongdoings, and damaging shared international interests will have consequences.
The Chinese government puts people first, and its measures taken to safeguard food safety and the health of the Chinese people are necessary and reasonable.
Japan should revoke its wrong decision and halt the discharge as soon as possible, sincerely communicate with neighboring countries, and handle the nuclear-contaminated water in a responsible manner to avoid further unpredictable destruction and harm to the global marine environment.
(Zhong Sheng is a pen name often used by People’s Daily to express its views on foreign policy and international affairs.)