Ignoring science, environmental protection and international law – G7 endorses Japan’s Fukushima water discharge plans

Apr 16, 2023

Legacy of Fukushima disaster shows nuclear energy is no solution to energy and climate crisis.

Sapporo, Japan – The nations of the G7 have chosen politics over science and the protection of the marine environment with their decision today to support the Japanese government’s plans to discharge Fukushima radioactive waste water into the Pacific Ocean.

The 1.3 million cubic meters/tons of radioactive waste water at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, currently in tanks, is scheduled to be discharged into the Pacific Ocean this year. Nations in the Asia Pacific region, led by the Pacific Island Forum, have strongly voiced their opposition to the plans.[1] Some of the world’s leading oceanographic institutes and marine scientists have criticised the weakness of the scientific justification applied by TEPCO, the owner of the nuclear plant, warned against using the Pacific Ocean as a dumping ground for radioactive contaminated water, and called for alternatives to discharge to be applied.[2]

“The Japanese government is desperate for international endorsement for its Pacific Ocean radioactive water dump plans. It has failed to protect its own citizens, including the vulnerable fishing communities of Fukushima, as well as nations across the wider Asia Pacific region. The aftermath of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima is still strongly felt, and the Japanese government has failed to fully investigate the effects of discharging multiple radionuclides on marine life. The government is obligated under international law to conduct a comprehensive environmental impact assessment, including the impact of transboundary marine pollution, but has failed to do so. Its plans are a violation of the UN Convention Law of the Sea.

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The marine environment is under extreme pressure from climate change, overfishing and resource extraction. Yet, the G7 thinks it’s acceptable to endorse plans to deliberately dump nuclear waste into the ocean. Politics inside the G7 at Sapporo just trumped science, environmental protection, and international law,” said Shaun Burnie, Senior Nuclear Specialist at Greenpeace East Asia.

Greenpeace East Asia analysis has detailed the failures of liquid waste processing technology at the Fukushima Daiichi plant and the environmental threats posed by the releases.[3] There is no prospect of an end to the nuclear crisis at the plant as current decommissioning plans are not feasible. Furthermore, the report finds the nuclear fuel debris in the reactors cannot be completely removed and will continue to contaminate the ground water over many decades.[4] Claims that the discharges will take 30 years is inaccurate as in reality, it will continue into the next century. Viable alternatives to discharge, specifically long term storage and processing, have been ignored by the Japanese government.[3]

The Japanese government’s attempt to normalise the Fukushima nuclear disaster is directly linked to its overall energy policy objective of increasing the operation of nuclear reactors again after the 2011 disaster. 54 reactors were available in 2011 compared to only ten reactors in 2022, generating 7.9% of the nation’s electricity in FY21 compared to 29% in 2010.[5]  Meanwhile, five of the other six G7 governments led by France, the US and the UK are also aggressively promoting nuclear power development.

“The idea that the nuclear industry is capable of delivering a safe and sustainable energy future is delusional and a dangerous distraction from the only viable energy solution to the climate emergency which is 100% renewable energy. The global growth of low cost renewable energy has been phenomenal – but it has to be much faster and at an even greater scale if carbon emissions are to be reduced by 2030. Approval for nuclear waste dumping and nuclear energy expansion sound like the 1970’s but we have no time for such distractions. We are in a race to save the climate in the 21st century, and only renewables can deliver this,” said Shaun Burnie.

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Notes:

[1] Pacific Islands Forum, Japan must work with the Pacific to find a solution to the Fukushima water release issue – otherwise we face disaster”, 4 January 2023

[2] The 100 U.S. based institutions of the National Association of Marine Laboratories (NAML) which includes SCRIPPS and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, 12 December 2022 “Many of the radionuclides contained in the accumulated waste cooling water have half-lives ranging from decades to centuries, and their deleterious effects range from DNA damage and cellular stress to elevated cancer risks in people who eat affected marine organisms, such as clams, oysters, crabs, lobster, shrimp, and fish. We urge the Government of Japan to stop pursuing their planned and precedent-setting release of the radioactively contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean and to work with the broader scientific community to pursue other approaches that protect ocean life; human health; and those communities who depend on ecologically, economically, and culturally valuable marine resources.”

[3] Greenpeace East Asia “Stemming the tide 2020 : The reality of the Fukushima radioactive water crisis report” 2020

[4] Sato Satoshi, “Decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station”, March 2021

[5] World Nuclear Industry Status Report – 2022

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