Secretary General, Henry Puna’s Opening Statement at Briefing for Forum Members by the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General – Opening Statement

Briefing for Forum Members by the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, regarding Japan’s Decision to Discharge ALPS Treated Water into the Pacific Ocean.
03 June 2021


Excellencies and Senior Officials, good evening to all of you.

I recognise that this is the first time that I address Members in my capacity as Secretary General for the Pacific Islands Forum.

It is my distinct honour to have been entrusted this position by our Leaders and allow me to reaffirm with you my personal commitment to work with you all to ensure the solidarity and uphold the principles of our Forum Family.

In turning to the session at hand, I thank you all for joining us this afternoon or evening for this very important briefing.

It is indeed an honour to welcome the Director General Rafael Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Director General, I am heartened by the IAEA’s acknowledgement of the Forum’s grave concerns in relation to Japan’s decision to discharge ALPS water into the Pacific Ocean. Thank you for accepting our invitation to facilitate this briefing for the Blue Pacific region.

I also join Deputy Secretary General Manoni in commending the Chair and Members of the PALM9 Senior Officials Meeting, for this important initiative. I acknowledge, in particular, New Zealand for its invaluable support in facilitating this event.

The Pacific’s engagement with the IAEA spans many decades, in view of the nuclear testing legacy issues that remain unresolved and that continue to pose serious environmental and health concerns for the Pacific.

I acknowledge the work of the IAEA to support Members’ efforts in adopting and implementing the highest standards of nuclear non-proliferation safeguards.

Indeed, the safeguards mechanism is a fundamental pillar of our very own Treaty of Rarotonga.

As Parties to this Treaty, we take very seriously our commitment to leave for our future generations a nuclear free Pacific.

The objective of this briefing, therefore, is to have a very frank dialogue with the IAEA regarding the recent decision by our close partner, Japan.

We, as a region, are entitled to clear answers, including evidence-based scientific assessments, that underpin the decision by the Government of Japan, which the IAEA has endorsed.

This clarity will inform and advance our shared understanding of the full spectrum of impacts of Japan’s decision to discharge a large volume of treated nuclear water into the Pacific Ocean.

While we hope to broaden our understanding of the issue at this session, this by no means prevents us from pursuing further collaboration to seek access to other independently verifiable scientific environmental assessment.

Our 50-year history as the Forum has been overshadowed by our nuclear legacy issues, which continue to impact affected communities today, and we should not accept anything less.

As emphasised by our Leaders in 2019, the threat of nuclear contamination continues to be of significant concern to the health and security of our Blue Pacific Continent.

I encourage the active participation of all Members to raise all perspectives and concerns for a constructive and transparent discussion.

I am hopeful that this dialogue will foster a better understanding of the issues.

Thank you once again to Director General Grossi and the IAEA for their cooperation on this matter, and we look forward to continued cooperation on these issues.

With those brief remarks, I wish you all the best in your deliberations and discussions today.

I thank you.


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