A regrettable discharge decisionIt is highly regretful that the Japanese government has decided to discharge 1.25 million tons of treated wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean despite repeated protests from neighboring countries like Korea and China.
Korea, which shares the East Sea with Japan, is the most fearful of damage to human lives through contamination of the sea habitat and food chain. An international report projected that waters around Jeju Island will be affected by the waste water seven months after the release and the coastal regions along the East Sea 18 months later.
Japan must do utmost to ease deepening concerns from neighboring countries. But how much it has done for its neighbors is questionable given a lack of close consultation with the Korean government over its decision. The Moon Jae-in administration also does not seem to have done its best to fight for public health and environmental safety when both are at stake. It must come up with a strategy to minimize the risks and dangers to public health and environment before it is too late.
Japan claims that if the contaminated water is diluted by more than 100 times, it can lower the radioactive carbon-14 and other toxic components to internationally permissible levels. Tokyo also said the method has the support from the U.S. government. But whether discharging the waste water into the Pacific is the best means is not convincing. There have not been prior efforts to seek other possible methods with international society. If it has chosen the option of sea release as it is cheapest even when there are other safer means, its action will be condemned by the international community.
There is still time two years before the discharge is endorsed by the Japan Nuclear Regulation Authority. Tokyo must address the problem more in the international context. Contaminated water can flow across the globe. Radioactive contamination can be damaging across many generations.
Japan must share its information and discharging process with its neighbors and the international society, including the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Seoul also must go beyond simply issuing regret and protest and come up with a practical solution to lessen the inevitable damage on Korean waters, environment and people. Even if the release takes place two years later, Korea must be included throughout all the process from the preparatory stage to execution under the IAEA supervision.