Japan announces date for Fukushima radioactive water release
Greenpeace Japan criticizes the Japanese government's announcement of the start date for radioactive water discharges from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station into the Pacific Ocean. The decision disregards scientific evidence, violates the human rights of communities in Japan and the Pacific region, and is non-compliant with international maritime law. More importantly it ignores its people’s concerns, including fishermen. The Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) - the nuclear power plants’ operators - falsely assert that there is no alternative to the decision to discharge and that it is necessary to move towards final decommissioning. This further highlights the failure of the decommissioning plan for the nuclear plants destroyed in the 2011 earthquake, stating that tens of thousands of tons of contaminated water will continue to increase with no effective solution.
“We are deeply disappointed and outraged by the Japanese Government's announcement to release water containing radioactive substances into the ocean. Despite concerns raised by fishermen, citizens, Fukushima residents, and the international community, especially in the Pacific region and neighboring countries, this decision has been made," said Hisayo Takada, Project Manager at Greenpeace Japan.
The increasing volumes of and the pending release of the radioactive water demonstrate the failure of the decommissioning plan for the Fukushima Daiichi. The contaminated water will continue to accumulate for many years without effective measures to stop it. The Japanese Government and TEPCO falsely claim that discharge is the only viable option necessary for eventual decommissioning. Nuclear power generation, which experiences shutdowns due to accidents and natural disasters, and perpetually requires thermal power as a backup, cannot serve as a solution to global warming.
“The deliberate pollution of the Pacific Ocean through these radioactive waste discharges is a consequence of the 2011 nuclear disaster and Japan’s decades long nuclear power program. Instead of acknowledging the flaws in the current decommissioning plan, the ongoing nuclear crisis, and the massive amount of public funds required, the Japanese government intends to restart more nuclear reactors despite evidence of major earthquakes and safety risks. The current government energy plan fails to deliver secure and sustainable renewables such as wind and solar energy that the climate emergency demands," said Takada.
As of 8 June 2023, there were 1,335,381 cubic meters of radioactive wastewater stored in tanks,(1) but due to the failure of the ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System) processing technology, approximately 70% of this water will have to be processed again. Scientists have warned that the radiological risks from the discharges have not been fully assessed, and the biological impacts of tritium, carbon-14, strontium-90 and iodine-129, which will be released in the discharges, have been ignored.(2) The IAEA endorsed Japan’s plans for discharge. However, the IAEA has failed to investigate the operation of the ALPS, has completely ignored the highly radioactive fuel debris that melted down which continues every day to contaminate ground water - nearly 1000 cubic meters every ten days. Furthermore, the discharge plan has failed to conduct a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment, as required by its international legal obligations, given that there is a risk of significant transboundary harm to neighboring countries. The IAEA is not tasked with protecting the global marine environment but it should not encourage a state to violate it.
“The myth is being perpetuated that discharges are necessary for decommissioning. But the Japanese government itself admits that there is sufficient water storage space in Fukushima Daiichi. (3) Long-term storage would expose the current government decommissioning roadmap as flawed, but that is exactly what needs to happen. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station is still in crisis, posing unique and severe hazards, and there is no credible plan for its decommissioning,” emphasized Shaun Burnie, Senior Nuclear Specialist at Greenpeace East Asia.
Member states at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, as well as UN Special Rapporteurs, have opposed and criticized Japan's discharge plans. (4) Japan's discharge plans also disregard the groundbreaking Human Rights Council resolution 48/13, which in 2021 determined that it is a human right to have a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.(5) Furthermore, Japan has failed to comply with its legal obligations under the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to protect the marine environment including its legal requirement to conduct a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment into the discharges into the Pacific Ocean, given the risk of significant transboundary harm to neighboring countries. (6)
“Instead of engaging in an honest debate about this reality, the Japanese government has opted for a false solution - decades of deliberate radioactive pollution of the marine environment - during a time when the world's oceans are already facing immense stress and pressures. This is an outrage that violates the human rights of the people and communities of Fukushima, and other neighboring prefectures and the wider Asia-Pacific region,” said Burnie.
Greenpeace East Asia Taipei office believes that Taiwan's aquaculture and fishing industry, which contributes billions of dollars to the economy annually, will be impacted in the front line. The Taiwanese government must address the issue of nuclear wastewater discharge. On one hand, it should negotiate with Japanese authorities regarding monitoring, testing, and compensation arrangements for the fishing industry. Simultaneously, the government should also learn from the past and current situation, and furthermore comprehensively phase out nuclear power in future energy planning. In this way, Taiwan can avoid being trapped in the quagmire of a nuclear disaster.
1 TEPCO water portal as of 8 June 2023 – an increase of 4,437 cubic meters since 20 April 2023.
2 The opposition to the discharges includes the U.S. National Association of Marine Laboratories (NAML) consisting of 100 leading marine science institutions in the United States stated “The proposed release of this contaminated water is a transboundary and transgenerational issue of concern for the health of marine ecosystems and those whose lives and livelihoods depend on them.” - December 2022
3 METI, “The Subcommittee on Handling of the ALPS Treated Water Report” 10 February 2020 (Provisional Translation)
4 See, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=27000&LangID=E
5 UN, UN General Assembly declares access to a clean and healthy environment a universal human right, 28 July 2022.
6 “Japan's plan for radioactive water defies international law”, Duncan E.J. Currie and Shaun Burnie, July 2021
- For Greenpeace’s radiation survey over ten years, see “Fukushima 2011-2020
- For analysis on decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi, see report “Decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station From Plan-A to Plan-B Now, from Plan-B to Plan-C and Greenpeace briefing “Fukushima Daiichi Decommissioning Time for a new long term strategic plan“
- For detailed background on the planned discharges see “Stemming the tide 2020: The reality of the Fukushima radioactive water crisis”, Greenpeace East Asia, October 2020