Moon's gov't dismissed Fukushima water concerns

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Moon's gov't dismissed Fukushima water concerns

An aerial view shows tanks containing contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, on Feb.14, 2021. The Japanese government on Tuesday officially decided to release treated water in two years.  [EPA]

An aerial view shows tanks containing contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, on Feb.14, 2021. The Japanese government on Tuesday officially decided to release treated water in two years. [EPA]

 
Despite the Moon Jae-in administration’s loud complaints about Japan's plan to release tons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean, the government concluded last year that such a release would not have a significant impact on Korea’s maritime environment, an opposition lawmaker told the JoongAng Ilbo.  
 
According to Rep. An Byung-gil of the People Power Party (PPP), a joint taskforce formed by the government published a report last October on the contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
 
“Japan has decided how to dispose of the wastewater from the plant,” the report said. "All that is left is when to announce it."  
 
The Japanese government announced Tuesday that in two years’ time it will gradually release into the Pacific Ocean more than a million tons of treated wastewater from the Fukushima plant. An earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 caused a meltdown at the nuclear plant and for the past decade, Japan has struggled with what to do with radioactive water stored in large tanks at the defunct plant from before and after the accident. The tanks are expected to be full by the summer of 2022.  
 
According to the report, the Nuclear Safety And Security Commission, a member of the taskforce, hosted seven discussion sessions with experts. 
 
“Even if the wastewater is released into the sea and reaches Korean waters several years later, it will be diluted ... and there will be no meaningful impact [on Korea],” the report said. 
 
The report also said that the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) at the nuclear plant, which Japan is using to treat the contaminated water, is functioning properly.  
 
The report said a study was conducted in Japan's coastal regions on the impact of radiation employing an international standard used by the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. The measurements taken in the regions did not indicate health risks, the report said.
 
The report dismissed concerns about health hazards from tritium because the radioactive material hardly accumulates inside a living body.
 
Despite the conclusions of last year’s report, Moon's government fiercely protested Japan’s decision this week. The strongest protest was made by Moon directly to Japanese Ambassador to Korea Koichi Aiboshi on Wednesday during a meeting at the Blue House. Moon also ordered aides to bring Japan’s decision to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.  
 
The Prime Minister’s Office said last year's report was not an official position of the Korean government.
 
“The government sternly opposes Japan’s decision and will not condone any action that harms the Korean people’s safety,” it said.  
 
Kim Ye-ryeong, spokeswoman of the opposition PPP, pointed out the discrepancy. “A government taskforce issued a report saying there was no risk, while the Blue House said it wants to start an international lawsuit,” she said. “Who should we trust? No matter what happens, the Moon administration cannot avoid the responsibility for its diplomatic flop.”
 
The PPP also has started its own anti-Japan campaign. Rep. Joo Ho-young, floor leader of the party, condemned Japan for having made the decision to release the wastewater without consulting neighbors including Korea.  
 
Jeju Governor Won Hee-ryong said in a radio interview Thursday that many countries, except for the United States, are supporting Korea’s position and urged the government to file a suit with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.  
 
“We must cooperate with Russia, China and Southeast Asian countries to pressure Japan in the international community,” he said.  
 
It is rare for the PPP to criticize Japan or the United States. The party has long stressed the importance of strengthening relations with the two countries, while criticizing the administration and the ruling Democratic Party (DP) for being anti-Japan.  
 
The PPP also said the government had known about Japan’s plan for years, but made few efforts to change it.  
 
BY KIM KI-JEONG, SER MYOJA   [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]  
 
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