The Daily Tribune recently published the opinion entitled “Releasing Fukushima water amid protests?” by Mr. Bernie V. Lopez, which worsens the misperception of Japan’s discharge plan. Therefore, I would like to provide explanations based on scientific evidence and facts as well as Japan’s efforts to take the measure in the most accountable and transparent manner.
First of all, the water to be discharged is NOT “nuclear wastewater”.” It is “ALPS (advanced liquid processing system) treated water,” which has been sufficiently purified until the concentration of radioactive materials other than tritium is below the regulatory standard and then is further diluted before it is discharged. Tritium is a radioactive material that exists in nature, and can be found in rainwater and also in our bodies, but does not accumulate in the body.
The reason for the discharge of ALPS-treated water is not a fear of the dangers of storing large amounts of nuclear wastewater but to restore life in Fukushima and achieve reconstruction. The Subcommittee on Handling ALPS Treated Water considered five options: geosphere injection, discharge into the sea, vapor release, hydrogen release, and underground burial.
Of those methods, discharge into the sea was determined to be the best from a risk management perspective, because it has a proven track record in domestic and international nuclear facilities and is easy to monitor. Discharge of ALPS-treated water is an issue that cannot be postponed to construct new facilities to safely proceed with the decommissioning work, which will be more fully underway in the future.
On 4 July 2023, The International Atomic Energy Agency or IAEA, the world’s authority on nuclear-related issues, published the Comprehensive Report on the Safety Review of the ALPS Treated Water at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, which presents the findings of a nearly two-year review conducted by the IAEA and independent international experts based on scientific evidence. The report states that Japan’s plans to discharge the ALPS-treated water into the sea and associated activities are consistent with relevant international safety standards, and the discharge will have a negligible radiological impact on people and the environment.
On 24 August 2023, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, or FDNPS, initiated the discharge of ALPS-treated water to promote the reconstruction of Fukushima.
Since the start of the discharge, it has been confirmed that the concentration of nuclides including tritium in seawater and marine products is far below the standards, which indicates that the discharge is safe as planned.
Specifically, Japan is implementing three types of monitoring (monitoring of treated water in tanks, real-time monitoring of a wide range of nuclides, mainly tritium) with the involvement of the IAEA.
If a problem is detected during this monitoring process such as detecting radioactivity levels exceeding standards, appropriate measures will be taken, including immediate suspension of the discharge.
In more detail, we will manage the annual discharge volume of tritium so it will not exceed 22 trillion Bq, which is equivalent to the target discharge management value for the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station before the accident.
It is worth noting that other countries also discharge tritium into the sea in compliance with their domestic laws and regulations; for instance, according to the China Nuclear Energy Association website, China, discharging 112 trillion Bequerel, or Bq, from Yangjiang Nuclear Power Plant , 102 trillion Bq from Ningde NPP, 90 trillion Bq from Hongyanhe NPP in 2021. The amount of tritium in the ALPS-treated water is far smaller than the amount of tritium discharged from many nuclear power plants and other facilities in other countries.
Consultations with stakeholders
Furthermore, the aforementioned article states that “Japan planned the release unilaterally — no transparency, no consensus. They never made an effort for international awareness and inspection.”
However, the fact is that Japan has provided information and has engaged in consultations with the interested parties including both international and domestic ones in a transparent manner based on scientific evidence, with an emphasis on providing sufficient data.
In addition, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has emphasized that every possible measure would be taken to ensure the safety of discharge and that any emission that would harm the health of citizens or the marine environment would not occur.
He also explained Japan’s efforts regarding the discharge of ALPS-treated water at ASEAN-related Summit Meetings in Jakarta on September 6 and 7 and the G20 New Delhi Summit on September 9 and 10, which led to a wider and deeper understanding of our approach.
The positive recognition and support in the international community for Japan’s efforts and its commitments are currently spreading.
Many countries including the U.S., Australia, and NZ officially welcomed the IAEA’s Comprehensive Report, and also Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, as Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) acknowledged Japan’s efforts.
Recently, on the margin of the Japan-ASEAN Summit Meetings, H.E. Mr. Joko Widodo, President of the Republic of Indonesia expressed his understanding of Japan’s position. In addition, on the margin of the G20 New Delhi Summit, H.E. Mr. Recep Tayyip ERDOGAN, President of the Republic of Türkiye said that he is aware of Japan’s sincere efforts, and H.E. Mr. Mark RUTTE, Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands expressed his full support to Japan’s approach.
Therefore, the author’s claim that Japan had “no transparency, no consensus” is inaccurate. As the author correctly stated, “Secrecy will be Japan’s enemy” and Japan has been and will prioritize our transparency.
At the end of the day, all the questions should be left to scientists and experts on nuclear issues, to draw a conclusion that can stand the test of scientific evidence and facts. Having gone through unprecedented hardships since the Great East Japan Earthquake, we remain committed to facing the most difficult challenges with complete transparency in close collaboration with the IAEA.
After the start of discharge into the sea, Japan will continue to conduct three types of monitoring in a multilayered manner with the involvement of the IAEA. We hope to gain the understanding and support of the international community.
The government of Japan will continue to provide the necessary information transparently based on the conclusion of the comprehensive report and will continue efforts to gain further understanding from the international community, while scientifically refuting politically motivated opinions.
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