June 15th, 2021 —Since Japan’s April 13th announcement of its plans to discharge treated wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the Pacific Ocean, statements were also made by the Pacific Islands Forum Chair, Tuvalu, the Office of the Secretary General, and individual Leaders. Forum Members have since continued to ask questions and raise issues in particular through current preparations for the 9th Meeting of Pacific Forum Leaders and Japan (PALM 9) in July 2021.
Forum Members are concerned that any discharge may threaten the security of the Blue Pacific Continent as a nuclear-free Pacific and add to the existing burden on environmental, health and human rights impacts from previous nuclear testing programmes, as well as exacerbate the region’s existing vulnerabilities, including COVID-19, economic recovery, and the climate emergency.
These concerns were shared in two separate briefings with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Japan senior officials. Secretary General Henry Puna emphasised the commitment of the Forum to a nuclear-free Pacific as established by the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga), adding that the Forum family “are entitled to clear answers, including evidence-based scientific assessments. We should not accept anything less”.
The proposed discharge brings to the fore the Pacific’s painful nuclear testing legacy. Despite permanent cessation of nuclear testing in the Pacific in 1996, impacts continue to be felt today, particularly in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and French Polynesia. Many issues remain unresolved and are discussed by Forum Leaders each year.
Dialogue continues between Forum Members and Japan through the PALM process, including at the second meeting of PALM9 Senior Officials held virtually today. —ENDS
Image credit: PIFSmedia-IAEA-Pacific briefing session.