□ Tang Xing

On November 11, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced that it had completed the third round of discharge of nuclear-contaminated water, and the fourth round would be implemented early next year. According to the plan, TEPCO will carry out four rounds of discharge by the end of March 20, discharging a total of 2024,3 tons of nuclear-contaminated water. Since the official start of the discharge of nuclear-contaminated water into the sea on August 3, opposition and protests have continued in Japan and abroad, and the continuous exposure of accidents and problems has further heightened the concerns of the international community. Facts have proved that there are loopholes in TEPCO's management system, and the "safe and transparent" plan for the discharge of the sea claimed by the Japanese side is not convincing.

As more and more nuclear-contaminated water from Fukushima is discharged into the sea, the international community urgently demands that Japan take serious concerns at home and abroad, properly handle them in a responsible and constructive manner, and fully cooperate with the establishment of a long-term and effective international monitoring arrangement with the substantive participation of Japan's neighboring countries and other stakeholders, so as to prevent irreversible consequences caused by the discharge of nuclear-contaminated water into the sea.

Voices of protest from inside and outside are continuous

Since August 8, with each round of discharge of nuclear-contaminated water, there has been a new wave of opposition and protests in Japan and abroad.

On November 11, on the eve of Japan's launch of the third round of emissions, a number of Japanese citizens' groups rallied in front of TEPCO's headquarters to strongly oppose the launch of the third round of emissions. Shin Yanagida, a representative of the organizers of the event, said at the scene that the Japanese government and TEPCO forcibly discharged the nuclear-contaminated water into the sea on the pretext of promoting the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was an "outright lie" and that there was no clear roadmap and timetable for the decommissioning of the nuclear power plant. Previously, on September 1, before the second round of discharge, and on August 9, after the first round of discharge, protests against the discharge of sea also took place in Tokyo, Fukushima Prefecture and other places in Japan.

Abroad, since the start of the sea discharge, many governments, civil society organizations, experts and scholars have continuously voiced their opposition and protests. According to incomplete statistics, the Philippines, Fiji, Malaysia, South Korea, North Korea, Russia and other countries have expressed their opposition through demonstrations, protest rallies and diplomatic protests.

At the summit of the Pacific Islands Forum, which opened on November 11, the issue of sea discharge became the focus of the meeting, and the joint statement of the meeting stated that many countries and regions expressed "strong concern" about sea discharge, among which the Solomon Islands and other countries expressed strong opposition to sea discharge. On November 6, the 11th Tripartite Environment Ministers' Meeting was held in Nagoya. South Korean Environment Minister Han Hok-jin attended the meeting and expressed concern to the Japanese side about the discharge of nuclear-contaminated water into the sea. Huang Runqiu, Minister of Ecology and Environment of China, pointed out that Japan should face up to the concerns of the international community and fully consult with stakeholders, especially neighboring countries, to dispose of nuclear-contaminated water in a responsible manner.

It is worth noting that since the start of the discharge, the Japanese government has reassured itself at home and lobbied externally, and has tried its best to seek domestic and foreign support for the discharge of nuclear-contaminated water into the sea. According to NHK, Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has formulated a policy to strengthen response and dissemination of information related to nuclear-contaminated water, and has allocated a 700 billion yen "public relations budget".

Some commentators have pointed out that the Japanese government would rather spend money on public relations than resort to less harmful solutions.

Frequent accidents add to concerns

Nuclear-contaminated water contains a variety of radioactive substances, and the risk of disposal is extremely high, and the safety cannot tolerate half a point pool, which is why credit and sense of responsibility are very important. Recent accidents such as the sputtering of radioactive waste from the Fukushima nuclear power plant have once again proved that TEPCO, which is responsible for the discharge of nuclear-contaminated water, has a chaotic internal management and is accustomed to concealing and deceiving, and that Japan's "safe and transparent" plan for discharging the water into the sea is not convincing at all.

According to reports, on October 10, the day after the IAEA went to Japan to conduct a safety review, TEPCO had a safety accident. Five workers came into contact with the contaminated water, and although all five were wearing masks and full-body protective clothing at the time, two of them were admitted to the hospital because the amount of radiation on the surface of their bodies had not dropped to the safety standard.

In response to the accident, TEPCO initially said that the amount of waste liquid spilled was 100 milliliters, but according to Japanese media investigations, the actual amount of waste liquid spilled was dozens of times the amount originally announced by TEPCO. On October 10, TEPCO also changed its tune, saying that the amount of waste liquid spilled at that time was several liters. In view of TEPCO's historical record of dishonesty, this incident has further aggravated the outside world's doubts about TEPCO's use and management loopholes.

Coincidentally, on October 10, in the nuclear contaminated area of Fukushima Prefecture in Japan, another case of scrap metal that may pose a radioactive risk was illegally resold. According to the police investigation, the total amount of stolen metal waste amounted to dozens of tons, which had been melted down by the relevant acquisition companies and entered the market circulation, and it was impossible to trace the whereabouts and recycle. According to the regulations, all waste in the nuclear contaminated area should be managed in a closed loop and can only be reused after decontamination, otherwise the radiological hazard will spread and cause long-term effects on the environment. Although this case is not directly related to the discharge of nuclear-contaminated water into the sea, it has exposed the management loopholes and confusion that exist in reality, and the management of nuclear radioactive materials should be professional and rigorous, which once again highlights the importance of international supervision of the discharge of nuclear-contaminated water into the sea.

International monitoring needs to be advanced urgently

Since the start of the discharge, Japan's Ministry of the Environment and TEPCO have regularly released radioactivity test reports to the outside world, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has also regularly visited Japan to conduct safety reviews, independent tests, and issue independent reports, but this mechanism is far from sufficient to ensure safety.

According to the Hankyoreh Ilbo, Japan has used various means to prevent other countries from independently verifying the nuclear-contaminated water. To ensure the safety of nuclear-contaminated water, scientists from many countries need to take samples several times to analyze changes in the concentration of radioactive materials. However, Japan has been opposed to direct sampling by South Korea and other related countries, and has maintained this position after the sea discharge.

The spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed out that the marine monitoring activities carried out by the IAEA Secretariat in Japan are still carried out in nature on the basis of bilateral arrangements with Japan, which are not sufficient to constitute a long-term and effective international monitoring arrangement with the full and substantive participation of stakeholders.

Kazuya Kitamura, representative of the Japan Renewable Energy Research Institute, pointed out that the total amount of core meltdown waste at the Fukushima accident nuclear power plant is 880 tons, and there is no definite way to remove it, and the experimental recovery measures being considered are only measured in grams. If the current situation continues, more nuclear-contaminated water will continue to be produced, and the conclusion that the nuclear-contaminated water will be discharged for a period of 30 years is not reliable. Hiroshi Miyano, chairman of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Waste Reactor Symposium Committee of the Japan Atomic Energy Association, pointed out that "it is estimated that it will take 50 years to take 100 years at the earliest to remove the waste from the core meltdown."

The total amount of nuclear contaminated water in Fukushima, Japan, is huge, and the discharge time is long, which is related to the health of all mankind and the global marine environment. Japan should take seriously its legitimate concerns at home and abroad, accept long-term and effective international monitoring arrangements with the full and substantive participation of stakeholders, and earnestly dispose of nuclear-contaminated water in a scientific, safe and transparent manner.