IAEA will present information on its collaboration with Japan to London Convention-London Protocol in 2022
Tokyo/London [29 October 2021] The Japanese government has blocked efforts to establish a new scientific working group that would have assessed alternative options to discharging over 1 million tons of radioactive waste water into the Pacific Ocean.
Proposals to develop an international technical workshop early in 2022, which would have ensured that Japan had access to the latest expertise from around the world on treatment and alternatives to discharge, were made during a week-long meeting hosted by the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization which ended Friday.
The meeting was of the governing bodies of the London Convention and London Protocol (LC-LP), the international conventions with responsibility to promote effective control of all sources of marine pollution. (1) However, Japan failed to stop the discharge issue from being discussed once again at meetings of the LC/LP scheduled for 2022.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) offered to present information it has on the Fukushima water crisis to LC-LP parties next year and, in response to a request from Greenpeace, this should now also include full disclosure of whether, and if so how, IAEA’s ongoing support for Japan will examine options other than discharge to the ocean.
Greenpeace had proposed establishing a new working group to review options for long term storage and the application of the best available technology to process the contaminated water, including tritium removal technology. The governments of the Republic of Korea, China, Chile and the Pacific Island nations of Vanuatu and Palau all spoke in favor of reviewing alternatives to discharge in a working group. However, the Japanese delegation strongly opposed its establishment, supported by the United States, United Kingdom, and France. The Japanese government is planning to begin discharges to the Pacific Ocean in 2023.
“The Japanese government has intervened to try and prevent international review of its Fukushima plans, including an assessment of viable alternatives to the deliberate discharge of radioactivity into the marine environment,” said Dr. David Santillo, senior scientist with Greenpeace Research Laboratories, University of Exeter, and who attended the meeting this week. “By doing so it has once again failed to recognize the depth of concerns from its neighbors and Pacific island nations with regard to the protection of the Pacific Ocean from pollution. It’s a missed opportunity to find scientific and technical solutions to the waste water problem but efforts must and will go on.”
Greenpeace has long argued that TEPCO and the Japanese government have chosen the Pacific Ocean discharge route as the least cost option – but deliberately failed to apply the best available technology including for radioactive tritium.(2) Because of the potential transboundary impact of radioactive discharges, in particular for countries in the Asia Pacific region, and the requirements of international law, Japan has a duty to consult, to listen, to fully assess the potential impacts and to take action to prevent marine pollution beyond its borders.
“Despite their efforts, the Japanese government has failed to have the Fukushima water crisis removed from international scrutiny. The IAEA will now have to present its data to next year’s meetings of the LC-LP and we will be there to challenge them on why Japan is ignoring alternative technologies and options to avoid contamination of the Pacific,” said Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace East Asia. “When the world’s oceans are facing so many threats to their future, including from climate and biodiversity emergencies, the Japanese government has once again shown contempt and disregard for the environment and the people who will be impacted by its plans. They may have partly won this round but their plans for contamination of the Pacific can still be halted.”
For further information:
Dr David Santillo – [email protected]
Shaun Burnie – [email protected]; cell – +44(0)7904958286
1 – The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is an agency of the United Nations established in 1948 by a convention which came into force in 1958. It has 158 Member States plus two Associate Members. Greenpeace has observer status at the IMO and has participated in IMO meetings since the 1980’s. The annual LC-LP meeting is where governments review the status of the pollution of the world’s oceans, with particular regard to the disposal of wastes at sea. The deliberate dumping at sea of many wastes, including radioactive and industrial wastes, is prohibited under the London Convention and London Protocol and while this ban does not explicitly cover discharges from land-based facilities, the overall purpose of the LC-LP is the promotion of effective control of all sources of marine pollution.
2 – “Stemming the tide 2020: The reality of the Fukushima radioactive water crisis”, October 2020, Greenpeace East Asia, see this link
3 – “Proposal for an expert technical workshop to explore alternatives to discharge”, IMO submission from Greenpeace, August 2021, see this link