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Japan's toxic water discharge plan based on lies

By Xu Wenhong | China Daily | Updated: 2023-09-21 07:39
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Despite global condemnation, Japan began dumping the radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power into the sea on Aug 24, and recently Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the damaged Fukushima plant, announced that the first round of the release of the "treated" nuclear-contaminated water was completed on Sept 11.

With the rapid development of the global economy and the improvement of people's living standards, the demand for energy continues to increase. And thanks to the development of science and nuclear technology, nuclear power is now considered a safe, reliable and clean source of energy. In fact, by the end of 2022, there were about 422 nuclear power units operating in more than 30 countries that were generating huge amounts of electricity.

In general, water is used to cool down the reactors of nuclear power plants, and the wastewater thus generated is normally safe. But in Japan, the nuclear reactors' core melted after seawater from the earthquake-triggered tsunami entered and damaged the plant. So severe was the meltdown that it burned through the protective shell, causing nuclear fuel and waste to enter the wastewater and lead to nuclear pollution.

Normal nuclear wastewater and nuclear-contaminated water are fundamentally different. But in its official documents, the Japanese government calls the radioactive water from the tsunami-devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant "treated nuclear wastewater".

Considering all the scientific disposal options, discharging the radioactive water into the sea is the worst choice because it will damage the marine environment and ecology. The nuclear-contaminated water from the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island nuclear plants after the accidents, the worst in history, was disposed of through atmospheric discharge.

There is no precedence of discharging radioactive water directly into the ocean. Dumping nuclear-contaminated water into the sea is the cheapest and most convenient option for Japan, which will negatively affect the whole world. More important, the oceans are the common property of humankind, not Japan's "sewers".

By dumping the radioactive water into the sea, the Japanese government has not only exhibited arrogance but also disregarded global public opinion and violated international laws and norms. The sad fact is that if Japan does not comply with the international laws and conventions, other countries can only condemn and criticize it.

Japan has been spending huge amounts of money to build favorable global and domestic opinions about its decision, and enticing international organizations to endorse its action. It has twisted the International Atomic Energy Agency assessment report to claim it has the green light from the global nuclear body to execute its plan to dump the radioactive water into the sea.

Japan has used the IAEA's specious assessment report to cover up its immoral act. In order to deceive people, Japan claims the radioactive water, after being "treated", is harmless and even drinkable. If that is so, why doesn't Japan use the water at least in its manufacturing and agriculture sectors, instead of dumping it into the sea?

The specific nature of some of the nuclides in the radioactive water means many of them will spread with the currents and across the oceans, contaminating the entire marine ecosystem. Japan's action is therefore selfish, irresponsible and a threat to people around the world, especially people in its neighboring countries. Worse, the damage caused by the contamination of the oceans could be irreversible and, hence, should sound the alarm for the international community.

As the only country in the world to have suffered a nuclear attack, Japan should have a deeper understanding of nuclear radiation and the nuclear hazards it creates for people in the country and beyond. But the Japanese government has not displayed any such understanding. Rather, it has used a series of lies to justify its decision to dump the radioactive water into the sea.

Disregarding the opposition of its neighboring countries and the international community, Japan has completed the first round of radioactive water discharge in violation of all international laws. The United States-led West claims to be the global leader in environmental protection, yet it has not said a word against Japan's marine-ecosystem damaging action, exposing its hypocrisy on environmental protection. The leader of the Republic of Korea opposition party has been hunger striking for 21 days, while China has stopped imports of Japanese aquatic products.

The oceans both divide and connect the continents. So their health is critical to the health of the planet and all living beings, including humans. The safety of the marine ecosystem is a common challenge facing humanity, which is related to not only the global environment and ecology but also the health of people across the world.

The United Nations, the international community, and Japan's neighboring countries need to address this crisis by passing strict, or strengthening the existing, environmental laws that have provisions of holding accountable those violating environmental laws and contaminating the marine ecosystem.

John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, visited Beijing recently to discuss with Chinese leaders how to build a joint front with China to fight climate change. He emphasized that without China's participation, it is not possible to mitigate climate change, which is necessary to build a better future for humankind. Therefore, we urge Kerry to prompt the US administration to exert its influence on Japan to abandon its radioactive water discharge plan and explore better, eco-friendly ways to dispose of it.

The author is deputy secretary-general of the Center for One Belt One Road, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

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