“Disappointment” Over Japan’s Move to Release Nuclear-Contaminated Water

South Korea May Complain to IMO If Japan Alters Fukushima Plan
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The decision by Japan to move ahead with the release of treated radioactive-contaminated water has been described as “expected but deeply disappointing” by an expert in marine science.

Despite widespread public concerns and strong opposition both domestically and internationally, the Japanese government announced its intention on Tuesday to begin the process of releasing nuclear-contaminated wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the ocean starting this Thursday.

Professor Robert Richmond, who leads the Kewalo Marine Laboratory at the University of Hawaii in Manoa, expressed his disappointment, arguing that this move contradicts the principles outlined in the UN Ocean Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), the recently adopted UN High Seas Treaty, as well as the rights of indigenous communities in the Pacific.

Richmond, who is also a member of the Expert Scientific Advisory Panel to the Pacific Islands Forum, suggested that both Japan and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) should seize this challenging situation as an opportunity to develop improved strategies for managing nuclear disasters that do not involve the disposal of waste into the ocean.

Given the well-documented decline in ocean health and its impact on communities dependent on it, Richmond stressed the need for higher standards from those in positions of authority and responsibility.

He criticized the decision for undermining the assumption that the nuclear power industry can responsibly handle its own mistakes and waste. Richmond cautioned that failure to learn from history might result in future generations bearing the consequences of decisions driven by convenience, politics, and profit, rather than prioritizing people.

Japan maintains that the water has been treated to a degree where it no longer poses a hazard and is suitable for release into the Pacific Ocean.

David Krofcheck, a senior physics lecturer at the University of Auckland, emphasized the importance of assessing the presence of cancer-causing nuclear fission isotopes—cesium-137, strontium-90, and iodine-131—before the initial batch of water is discharged. These isotopes, introduced into Fukushima’s waters during and shortly after the 2011 disaster, are responsible for the radioactivity detected in seafood, leading to subsequent fishing bans.

Following a powerful earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011, the Fukushima nuclear power plant experienced core meltdowns, resulting in the generation of a significant volume of water contaminated with radioactive substances during the process of cooling down the nuclear fuel.