By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
FSM nixes Japan's plan to dump nuclear wastewater into Pacific Ocean
Federated States of Micronesia President David Panuelo is opposing Japan's plan to dump 1.2 million tons of nuclear waste from the Fukushima plant into the Pacific Ocean.
Despite Japan's assurance that the contaminated water will be treated and diluted to reduce radiation presence to levels set for drinking water, Panuelo said this does not guarantee that that planned wastewater discharge would not pose any harm to the environment and the island nations' livelihood.
Like most Pacific island countries, FSM relies on marine resources for its economic sustenance.
“I strongly believe it would be highly fruitful, and demonstrative of our close friendship and cooperation, for the government of Japan to engage in a formal and multilateral dialogue with countries whose livelihoods depend greatly on the health of the Pacific Ocean," Panuelo said in a letter to Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
Other surrounding countries and island nations in the Asia Pacific frown on Japan's plan, noting its potential impact on the region's fishing industry.
"In the spirit of multilateralism and inclusivity, I would encourage you to consider having consultations with the Micronesian region. I believe [such an engagement] will be fruitful for your government to hear, candidly and directly, our fears and concerns, so that they can be identified and then assuaged,” Panuelo added.
Japan's final approval of the waste disposal plan came after years of debate and is expected to begin in two years.
The nuclear disaster resulted from a 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered a hydrogen explosion, causing damage to reactor buildings at the Fukushima power plant.
“We recognize that putting the nuclear waste product in water tanks was an effective and immediate solution for an urgently evolving problem,” Panuelo wrote. “And we note, through your own assessment, that the current practice is unsustainable. As a fellow leader, I can empathize that you’re facing a difficult situation, domestically and internationally.”
Earlier, the Pacific Islands Forum and urged Japan to rethink its nuclear wastewater disposal plan and called for an independent review of its impact on human health and the environment.
PIF Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor said under international law, Japan should take all appropriate measures within its jurisdiction to prevent significant transboundary harm to Pacific island territories.
Such mandate, Taylor said, was highlighted by the States Parties of the Treaty of Rarotonga, also known as the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty. in December 2020.
She said the PIF's view is that Japan has not taken sufficient steps to address the potential harm to the Pacific.