Japan insists on "discharging sewage into the sea" to harm others (Global Hotspot)

  Our reporter Gao Qiao

  According to Kyodo News, on July 22, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Commission of Japan officially approved the nuclear sewage discharge plan after the accident of Tokyo Electric Power Company (“Tepco”) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (“Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant”) accident.

TEPCO will begin the full construction of nuclear sewage discharge facilities after obtaining the consent of the local government, and the sewage discharge plan is expected to start in the spring of 2023.

  Since the decision to discharge the nuclear sewage from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea in April 2021, the Japanese government has pushed forward the process of "discharging sewage into the sea" regardless of the strong opposition of the domestic people and the international community.

Today, the nuclear-contaminated water discharge plan has gone one step further in the implementation process, causing widespread concern.

  Approval of nuclear sewage discharge plan

  According to Kyodo News, on July 26, the Fukushima Prefecture Abandoned Reactor Safety Monitoring Committee approved the draft report submitted by experts and others regarding Tepco's nuclear sewage discharge plan after the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident. The draft concluded that " The countermeasures proposed by TEPCO can ensure the safety of the surrounding area.”

  The problem of nuclear sewage treatment in Japan has plagued Japanese society for more than 10 years.

On March 11, 2011, an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 occurred in the waters off northeastern Japan and triggered a huge tsunami.

Affected by the earthquake and tsunami, a large amount of radioactive material leaked from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

The continuous cooling of the reactor core and the influx of rainwater and groundwater into the reactor facilities have produced a large and increasing amount of nuclear sewage.

As of April 2021, about 1.3 million tons of nuclear sewage have been stored, and 140 tons are added every day.

TEPCO said that by the fall of 2022, the existing water storage tanks will be fully filled, and there will be no more space for large-scale construction of water storage tanks.

  On April 13, 2021, the Japanese government decided to discharge a large amount of nuclear sewage from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea after filtering and dilution.

In December of that year, TEPCO submitted an application for review of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant's nuclear sewage discharge plan.

According to the plan, TEPCO will dilute the nuclear sewage with a large amount of seawater, so that the activity of the radioactive substance tritium in the treated water is lower than 1/40 of the national standard, and then discharge it to the offshore sea about 1 km away through the newly established undersea tunnel.

It is expected that it will take decades for the nuclear sewage to be completely discharged.

  However, the discharge of nuclear sewage into the sea is not the only feasible solution to the nuclear sewage problem of the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Previously, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan had discussed the issue of Fukushima nuclear sewage treatment many times, and proposed various schemes including evaporative release, electrolytic discharge dilution into the sea, underground burial, and injection into strata.

However, Japan finally chose the "lowest cost and easiest to operate" option of discharging nuclear sewage to the sea.

  According to the "Tokyo Shimbun" report, in May this year, the Japan Atomic Energy Regulatory Commission had confirmed the draft "examination letter" submitted by TEPCO's emission plan, and believed that there was no problem with the content, and then entered the public consultation link.

Of the more than 1,200 comments publicly solicited, 670 were technical comments.

Despite this, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Commission still recognized TEPCO's nuclear sewage discharge plan on July 22 and officially approved the plan.

After that, Tepco only needs to obtain the approval of local governments such as Fukushima Prefecture to formally implement the emission plan.

  "The Japan Atomic Energy Regulatory Commission is a specially established institution after the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident. It is both an academic institution and an administrative function. It is equivalent to the highest institution in Japan's nuclear regulation. After the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, nuclear sewage continued to increase. The cost of storing and treating nuclear sewage continues to rise, and it also affects the reconstruction work after the local nuclear disaster in Fukushima. Therefore, the Japanese government must solve the problems related to nuclear sewage discharge. However, the current nuclear sewage discharge plan has not been approved by domestic There is strong opposition in Japan, especially in the fields of fishery and tourism, which have been greatly affected by the plan. Next, whether the plan can gain the support of local governments still needs further observation.” China University of Political Science and Law East Asia Sun Cheng, director of the Center for International Studies, said in an interview with this reporter.

  Continued strong opposition at home and abroad

  Since the announcement of Japan's nuclear sewage discharge plan, it has been strongly opposed by organizations such as the Fukushima Fisheries Association and the National Federation of Fisheries Associations of Japan and the international community.

On June 23, Masanobu Sakamoto, who just became the new chairman of the Japan National Fisheries Cooperative Federation, said that the Fukushima nuclear sewage discharge plan has not been understood by fisheries practitioners and citizens across Japan, and he opposed the plan.

  Kenichi Oshima, a professor at the Department of Policy at Ryukoku University in Japan, believes that it is reasonable for neighboring countries to worry about the discharge of Japan's nuclear sewage into the sea.

Because this is a matter of interest, the opinions of China, South Korea and other countries should be listened to. It is not something that Japan can decide alone to discharge sewage into the sea.

  China, South Korea, Russia, the Philippines, Pacific island countries and other neighboring countries affected by Japan's nuclear sewage discharge plan are closely watching the progress of the plan.

  A spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that for more than a year, the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company have not made any comments on the legitimacy of the Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water discharge plan, the reliability of nuclear-contaminated water data, the effectiveness of purification devices, and the uncertainty of environmental impact. A full and credible explanation of the issues.

While the International Atomic Energy Agency has not yet completed a comprehensive assessment, the Japanese side continues to advance the approval process of the sea discharge plan and the construction of the sea discharge project.

Japan's act of disregarding domestic public opinion and international concerns is very irresponsible.

  According to Yonhap News Agency, the South Korean government expressed concern on July 22 that the Japanese nuclear power regulator officially approved the discharge of pollutants from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea.

On July 26, South Korean President Yoon Sek-yue said that Japan should disclose information transparently to neighboring countries and obtain the consent of relevant countries.

  In July this year, the Pacific Islands Forum foreign ministers meeting issued a document stating that Japan's discharge of nuclear polluted water into the ocean may have intergenerational impacts, and the people of Pacific island countries have major concerns about this.

The foreign ministers reviewed the scientific advice provided by the forum's independent expert panel. Experts pointed out that the data and information provided by the Japanese side were insufficient for further security assessment.

  "On the issue of Japan's nuclear sewage discharge to the sea, China has always advocated that Japan should not initiate nuclear sewage discharge without authorization until it has fully consulted and reached an agreement with stakeholders and relevant international institutions. As a stakeholder in nuclear sewage discharge, China's claim conforms to the principles of international law and is well-founded. There is no precedent for human beings to discharge a large amount of nuclear sewage into the sea before, and it is impossible to predict the serious consequences of the plan, which may cause serious damage to the marine environment and the interests of neighboring countries. Based on this, it is necessary for China to fully express its opinions before the pollution action takes place, and to put pressure on Japan to prevent Japan from continuing to implement irresponsible treatment plans. Other relevant countries also have good reasons to express their critical views on this, and international cooperation can also be formed. The team will jointly supervise the issue of nuclear sewage treatment in Japan." Sun Cheng said.

  Efforts to avoid international responsibilities

  In order to appease the international community, Japan vigorously promotes the so-called safety of emissions.

Japan says it can filter out 62 types of radioactive substances using a filter called the Multinuclide Removal Equipment (ALPS).

Tritium, which is difficult to remove by the equipment, will be diluted to a concentration far below the Japanese national standard and discharged into the sea.

  However, TEPCO's record of integrity in handling the Fukushima nuclear accident has already been "extraordinary".

Japanese media have found that in addition to tritium in the Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water, there are various radioactive substances exceeding the standard.

TEPCO also admitted that more than 70% of the nuclear-contaminated water treated by ALPS did not meet the discharge standards and needed to be filtered again.

  On the safety of Japan's nuclear sewage discharge plan, the global scientific community has frequently voiced criticism.

Public information shows that if humans are continuously exposed to tritium radiation, it may cause cell death and DNA damage.

The German marine scientific research institute pointed out that the coast of Fukushima has the strongest ocean current in the world. Within 57 days from the date of discharge, radioactive substances will spread to most of the Pacific Ocean. After three years, the United States and Canada will be affected by nuclear pollution. Ten years later, it will spread to the global waters, affecting all aspects of global fish migration, distant-water fisheries, human health, and ecological security. The potential threat to human society and the health of the marine ecological environment is incalculable.

  In the face of widespread questioning and criticism from the international community, Japan hopes to use the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to increase domestic and international public opinion's understanding and support for the nuclear sewage discharge plan.

In February this year, an IAEA mission arrived in Japan to conduct the first on-the-spot investigation of the nuclear sewage discharge program.

The mission will re-verify the latest implementation plan in the second half of the year and publish its conclusions and comprehensive report before emissions begin.

  "Japan is well aware that if it negotiates with neighboring countries to resolve the issue of nuclear sewage discharge, Japan will face strict requirements and a lengthy negotiation process for nuclear sewage discharge standards from neighboring countries, and bear enormous international pressure. Japan has a greater influence on the IAEA, and the United States and other Western countries have acquiesced to Japan's nuclear sewage discharge to the sea. These factors condone Japan's irresponsible actions on the nuclear sewage issue. How to deal with it." Sun Cheng said.

  Kong Lingjie, deputy director of the China Institute of Boundary and Oceanography of Wuhan University, said in an interview with this reporter that Japan is a party to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and undertakes a series of obligations to protect and preserve the marine environment stipulated in Part XII of the Convention .

  Specifically, in order to comprehensively, systematically and accurately assess the impact of the nuclear sewage discharge plan in accordance with internationally accepted standards, procedures and practices, Japan needs to notify the countries that may be affected, provide necessary information, and discuss the EIA with these countries. Procedures and results, as well as measures to avoid, mitigate and eliminate impacts, conduct frank consultations and fully exchange views.

This is a very strict set of procedural obligations. Japan must not do it on its own, nor can it believe that there is no risk without risk, nor can Japan even use the IAEA's opinion to discharge nuclear sewage into the ocean because it has already cooperated closely with the IAEA on the disposal of nuclear accidents. In line with international practice, it is claimed that the country does not need to perform these procedural obligations involving environmental and ecological impacts.

Any country that may be affected by Japan's nuclear sewage discharge plan has the right to ask Japan to fulfill the above obligations.