23rd September, Suva-Fiji: On 20 September 2022, Pacific Islands Forum Members received a 5th virtual briefing from the Government of Japan regarding its plan to release over a million tonnes of radioactively contaminated cooling water from its Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the Pacific Ocean in early March/April 2023. This is expected to take at least 40 years.
The briefing session is part of ongoing dialogue between the Forum and Japan, including representatives of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) who are responsible for operating the planned release into the Pacific Ocean of the wastewater, which has accumulated since the 2011 tsunami that damaged the Fukushima plant.
The briefing sessions are aimed to help inform the region’s shared understanding of Japan’s plans, and in pursuit of Japan’s PALM9 undertaking to provide Forum Members with explanations based on scientific evidence, in a highly transparent and timely manner.
At their 51st Annual Meeting held in July, Forum Leaders reiterated their strong concerns for the significance of the potential threat of nuclear contamination to the health and security of the Blue Pacific, its people and prospects, and reaffirmed the importance of ensuring international consultation, international law, and independent and verifiable scientific assessments as per the PALM9 Declaration.
These are even more important considering the transboundary and transgenerational nature of nuclear waste discharge of this magnitude.
While supported by the IAEA as well as the Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Japan, the PIF Panel of Independent Experts who are independently assessing the science continue to emphasise their serious concerns that more data and information are needed to ascertain the safety of the water for disposal.
Consistent with this proposition, the Forum Secretariat reiterated that “[u]unfortunately, we have yet to receive the sound scientific proof needed, and we are advised that plans for discharge is premature. Based on the independent advice we have received, there are major data gaps and flaws, and more time is simply needed to further consider the plans”.
The Japanese Government reassured the PIF membership that there will be no release of the radioactive contaminated cooling water from its Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant until it can be ascertained that the water is indeed safe.
Further dialogue will take place at political levels in the coming weeks. The Pacific remains hopeful that no discharge will happen until all issues and concerns of the Pacific are addressed, through solutions that are based on best applicable science, and are consistent with international legal and moral obligations.
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