In a move that has stirred intense domestic and international outrage, Japan has brazenly completed its second discharge of nuclear-contaminated wastewater from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Despite wide concerns, Tokyo Electric Power Co, the plant operator, has maintained that there is no compelling rationale to diverge from its prescribed schedule, which is about to begin the third phase of discharges.
The United States and much of the West, however, have been rather reticent, although US authorities are among those who are cautious about importing food products, including seafood, from Japanese prefectures on the grounds of radionuclide contamination.
In the two discharges so far, Tokyo Electric Power revealed the release of 7,788 metric tons of what it called “treated water”, which had been stored in 10 on-site tanks, in each phase.
The world is left watching with bated breath as Japan continues with this controversial move to dump nuclear-contaminated wastewater into the Pacific Ocean. Japan’s actions are reminiscent of those of a rogue state, as it discharges its nuclear waste with apparent disregard for the well-being of its neighboring nations and its own citizens, even though the government professed care for food safety during the Group of Seven meeting of trade ministers in Japan on Saturday and Sunday.
The decision to discharge this contaminated water into the ocean is a cause for concern for several reasons.
First, it has the potential to cause irreparable damage to the marineecology and marine biology of the Pacific Ocean. The risk of contamination spreading beyond the Pacific Ocean also means that this issue is not just a local or regional one. It has the potential to affect global ecosystems and biodiversity. Furthermore, any radioactive contamination could have long-term effects on marine life, which could affect entire ecosystems and have subsidiary effects that might be felt for years to come. Second, this decision sets a dangerous precedent that could lead to similar actions being taken in other parts of the world.
Third, there are concerns that the decision to discharge the contaminated water into the ocean has been taken unilaterally, without proper consultation with stakeholders. This raises questions about transparency and accountability, and it could undermine efforts to promote responsible environmental management practices.
Safe and effective alternatives for disposing of water contaminated by nuclear material from the Fukushima power plant exist, including evaporation or underground storage. However, the Japanese government has chosen to discharge the water into the ocean, which is the “least expensive” solution and a speedy one. Japan’s response to global concerns over the discharges has been far from convincing, leaving the international community anxious about the impact of the wastewater on the marine ecosystem.
Despite strong global opposition, Japan is pushing forward heedlessly, seemingly prioritizing its self-serving interests over the world’s. Japan claims its nuclear-contaminated water meets international standards after treatment, but doubts persist. The so-called assessment of the International Atomic Energy Agency, marred by limitations and allegations of bias, falls short of proving that ocean disposal is the sole and best solution for handling the wastewater. The lack of independent verification of data and evidence provided by Japan also raises many questions.
Masanobu Sakamoto, president of the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives of Japan, has repeatedly expressed opposition to the discharge of treated radioactive water into the sea, demanding that his government take full responsibility for any negative impact on Japan’s fishing industry.
Japan’s actions are causing a cascading wave of consequences across the region, especially for its fishing industry. Experts warn that if Japan persists in its actions, this could invite further domestic and international opposition, potentially causing severe harm to Japan’s seafood export market.
Japan’s disregard of opposition is of significant concern, as the lack of criticism from the US and the West emboldens Japan to ignore the concerns of its people and the international community. While Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry claim that the water has been treated to meet regulatory standards, most Pacific island countries are deeply concerned about the potential consequences of the releases. The Pacific islands’ connection to the ocean is fundamental to their way of life, and they are rightfully alarmed by Japan’s move to release contaminated water into the sea.
Japan’s alliance with the US and the West provides it with an excuse to disregard opposition. The scandalous silence of the US and the West makes it easier for Japan to ignore the concerns of its people and the international community.
It is time for the US and the West to break their silence on this serious matter and ensure that Japan does not ignore such concerns. The dumping of nuclear wastewater into the ocean must be independently investigated, and there must be proper consultation with stakeholders to ensure that the most responsible and sustainable solution is chosen.
The author is an international affairs commentator and freelancer based in Karachi, Pakistan.
Copyright 1995 – . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form.