Korean National Assembly condemns Japan's plan to dump toxic water
The Korean National Assembly on Tuesday adopted a resolution condemning Japan's plan to release contaminated water from its defunct Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.
The resolution passed in a parliamentary plenary session called on Japan to take sufficient measures to ensure the safe disposal of the radioactive water at the Fukushima plant.
It stated, "The National Assembly strongly condemns the Japanese government's unilateral decision to release Fukushima's contaminated radioactive wastewater into the sea and urges the immediate withdrawal of that decision."
The resolution continued, "We will never tolerate any action by the Japanese government that could harm the health of our people."
Bipartisan lawmakers prepared the resolution in response to the Japanese government's announcement in April of its controversial decision to gradually release wastewater stored at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the sea in two years.
The plan has been protested by the Japanese fishing industry, international environmental groups and neighboring countries.
The resolution called for the Japanese government to scientifically verify the safety of the release and requested for the Korean government's participation in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) joint investigation team.
Seoul's Foreign Ministry has vehemently protested the Japanese government's decision as coming without sufficient consultation with Korea and posing a risk to the safety of neighboring countries and the maritime environment."
A massive earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011, causing a meltdown at the Fukushima plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco). So far some 1.25 million tons of contaminated water are stored in over 1,000 tanks there, enough to fill 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools, which are expected to be completely full in the latter half of next year.
Earlier this month, some 70 U.S. civic groups signed a letter to the Japanese government calling for it to "halt its decision to dump radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean."
The Manhattan Project for a Nuclear-Free World and other civic groups sent the letter to Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry through the Japanese consulate general in New York and its permanent mission to the United Nations on June 5, coinciding with World Environment Day, and just ahead of World Oceans Day on June 8.
The letter expressed concern that Tepco's Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), tasked with treating water at the plant, "cannot remove all radioactive materials before the dumping, as the Japanese government has repeatedly admitted."
It went on to highlight that the contaminated water stored at Fukushima is "fundamentally different from the water coming from a nuclear power plant during a regular operation," expressing worry over the "extremely high level of radioactivity" at the facility.
The civic groups listed eight demands to the Japanese government in the letter, including to stop the use of "misleading phrases" such as "treated water" to describe the radioactive water processed by the ALPS.
The groups stressed that radioactive isotopes, such as tritium and carbon-14, "cannot be isolated from water at all by the ALPS." It added that radioactive iodine, ruthenium, strontium and other radioactive isotopes may also remain in the water after being processed by the ALPS. Strontium-90 could accumulate in bones and cause bone cancer and leukemia, while tritium can cause mutations, tumors and cell death.
It urged Tokyo to ensure transparency in the process and to consult with third-party nuclear experts, civic groups, fishermen and Japanese residents.
They further called on Japan to explore safer alternatives such as long-term storage and argued that diluting the radioactive water "will not change the quantity of radioactivity that Japan will dump into the Pacific Ocean."
Independent experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in April also expressed deep regret regarding Japan's decision as it "imposes considerable risks to the full enjoyment of human rights of concerned populations in and beyond the borders of Japan."
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]