Amid outcries from China, Japan is moving forward with a plan that will release contaminated water from the Fukushima power plant into the ocean, with China accusing it of having already started.
Earlier this week, Japanese broadcaster NHK said an underwater tunnel built to serve as the conduit for releasing the contaminated water has already been filled with seawater, according to Reuters.
Hong Kong Secretary for Environment and Ecology Tse Chin-wan wrote an opinion piece opposing the plan, according to the South China Morning Post.
“It is irresponsible for the Japanese government to ignore the strong concerns of the international community and insist on discharging the radioactive waste water into the sea,” Tse said.
“I sincerely wish the Japanese authorities would not discharge the waste water and irreversibly endanger the environment and food safety before the international community reached a consensus.”
China’s state-run China Daily reported that Japan was already sending contaminated water into the sea, saying, “The process was carried out secretly.”
Meanwhile, China’s People’s Daily wrote that “Japan’s selfish act will transfer pollution risk to its neighbors and surrounding environment,” citing Li Song, China’s representative to the United Nations.
Japan has pushed back against the accusations.
“It is incorrect to accuse Japan of trying to proceed with the discharge one-sidedly and that Japan is in violation of international law,” a spokesman for Japan said, according to the South China Morning Post.
“[It] is not radioactive waste water but Advanced Liquid Processing System treated water that has been sufficiently purified.”
But that’s not an argument that has many believers, according to National Geographic.
“It’s a trans-boundary and trans-generational event. … Anything released into the ocean off of Fukushima is not going to stay in one place,” said Robert Richmond, director of the Kewalo Marine Laboratory at the University of Hawaii.
Richmond noted that radioactive material from the 2011 Fukushima accident was detected in California, 5,500 miles away.
Ken Buesseler, a marine radiochemist and adviser to the Pacific Islands Forum, said there are concerns, but objected to exaggerated claims.
“I don’t think that the releases would irreparably destroy the Pacific. … We’re not going to die. This isn’t that situation,” he said, adding that it “doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned.”
“The root of this problem is that they are moving already with a plan that has not yet shown that it will work. They’re saying, ‘We can make it work. We’ll treat it as many times as it takes.’ If you want to put a nickname on this plan, it’s ‘trust us; we’ll take care of it,’” he said.
The National Association of Marine Laboratories has set itself solidly against the plan, saying the advanced liquid processing system that Japan claims will largely neuter the harmful elements in the water “remains a serious concern due to the absence of critical data.”
“The supporting data provided by the Tokyo Electric Power Company and the Japanese Government are insufficient and, in some cases, incorrect,” the group said in a statement.
“NAML members are unified in our concern about use of the oceans as a dumping ground for radioactively contaminated water and other pollutants because such actions can negatively affect the long-term health and sustainability of our planet,” the statement said.
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