Unite all the forces that can be united to put pressure on Japan
Published: Aug 30, 2023 12:46 AM
Japan's reckless dumping of nuclear wastewater poses a grave danger to Earth. Cartoon: Carlos Latuff

Japan's reckless dumping of nuclear wastewater poses a grave danger to Earth. Cartoon: Carlos Latuff

Japan's decision to dump nuclear-contaminated wastewater into the sea is a significant concern for global marine safety and human survival. In recent days, opposition and criticism, both domestically and internationally, have grown stronger, particularly since Japan began the discharge on August 24. To divert attention, however, Japan is attempting to portray itself as a victim of intentional targeting by China, rather than accepting responsibility as the perpetrator. In the face of Japan's audacity, we must continue to firmly oppose its dumping actions. Moreover, it is crucial that we unite all available forces worldwide to prevent Japan from inflicting devastating harm on the oceans.

How to do that? Some steps may be worth pondering.

First, we should strengthen communication with the fishing associations, environmental organizations, and the public of the countries affected by Japan's nuclear-contaminated water dumping. In recent days, peoples in South Korea and Japan have held rallies to expose the dangers of dumping nuclear-contaminated water into the sea and condemn the Japanese government's decision to do so. Individuals from many concerned countries, including the Philippines, Pacific island countries, and representatives from various international organizations, have also raised doubts and criticisms regarding Japan's plan to dump nuclear-contaminated water into the sea. Those forces that have voiced legitimate opposition for self-interest and global maritime security are the ones with whom we should strengthen cooperation and unite.

Second, worldwide environmentalists and environmental organizations who have been focusing on nuclear safety and marine environment protection should be invited to make serious science-based analyses about the nuclear water dumping in front of cameras, Shen Yi, a professor at Fudan University, told the Global Times.

People around the world genuinely need to understand what kind of water is being discharged. Cooling water of normal nuclear plants has no direct contact with the nuclear reactor fuel cores. The Fukushima nuclear contaminated water, however, is totally different, as it has direct contact with contamination from the melted-down cores of three reactors and is severely contaminated with many radionuclides. Japan has said it has treated the water using Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) technology. Yet so far, growing concerns have been raised that APLS is far from sufficient. Not to mention that some radionuclides, such as Carbon-14, Iodine-129, and Cesium-137, can move up in the food chain and cause damage to human DNA. Against this backdrop, environmentalists, experts, and organizations studying marine ecosystems from across the globe should be encouraged to respond to the concerns about the impact of the nuclear water release on the food chain and human health.

Third, journalists from around the world should be allowed to visit Fukushima, Japan, for unrestricted reporting, Shen suggested.

Recently, when some Chinese journalists visited Fukushima, they were told that smartphones, laptops and cameras are not allowed. What is Japan trying to hide? Japan has chosen to dump nuclear water at a cost of 3.4 billion yen (about $23.22 million), while at the same time seeking 70.1 billion yen to tackle so-called disinformation, or in other words, to counteract the negative press about Japan's nuclear-contaminated water discharge. How is this possible?

Japanese fishermen have been the most vocal opponents of the plan to dump nuclear water. Tokyo has disregarded their concerns, sacrificing the interests of its own fishermen and putting the health of its own people at risk. No matter how much Japan will invest in propaganda, it can hardly conceal its image of being an authoritarian state with a meaningless electoral process.

Organizing joint on-site sampling and investigations among countries and international organizations is also an option. Shen suggests that BRICS countries and the Global South could carry out joint marine scientific expeditions, deploying research platforms or unmanned implants near Japan to conduct real-time independent sampling and monitoring. The results should be publicly compared with the data from Japan and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). If the standards are not met, the dumping should be halted.

Economically, countries can seek compensation from Japanese government or Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) based on international law for potential trans-boundary damage caused by the dumping of nuclear-contaminated water. This will make Japan realize that the cost of discharging outweighs Japan's selfish benefits.

This month as Japan started intentionally polluting the maritime environment with radioactive wastewater, a new catastrophe has emerged, with the potential to last for 30 years, 40 years, or indefinitely. But one thing should be certain - the release of Fukushima nuclear-contaminated wastewater should not mark the end of the story. The international community has a chance to make some joint efforts to stop the uncontrollable situation and protect people.

We are not inciting anti-Japanese sentiment, as our target is always Japan's irresponsible dumping actions. What we are doing is urging Japan to stop its wrongdoing, cancel the ocean discharge plan, for the sake of protecting the oceans for the common interests of humanity across generations. The next time when some politicians, especially those from the West, want to talk about "de-risking," they should bear in mind that the biggest risk in the world today is radioactive pollution brought by Japan. That is the one and only thing in urgent need of de-risking.