‘Japanese citizens are worried too’
Updated: Sep 6
Diplomat on Guam says Japan will pause Fukushima water release if safety is deemed compromised
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
The Japanese government scientifically planned the discharge of 1.2 million tons of wastewater from the crippled Fukushima power plant into the sea, taking “every single step” to ensure that its execution is safe, according to a Japanese diplomat on Guam.
Deputy Consul General Osamu Ogata said the Japanese government would constantly monitor the water release and discontinue the process should there be any indication that the action proved unsafe.
“As you may know, Japan is the only country in the world with two nuclear weapons in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This implies that Japanese citizens, including myself, are all sensitive to nuclear issues,” Ogata said, testifying before the legislative committee on environment on Wednesday.
He said the Japanese government “has been transparent from the beginning,” from the time it announced the nuclear water disposal plan in April 2021 through its final decision to begin the release last month.
“I personally have concerns and worries about it, as emotionally as you do. Knowing the concerns and emotions of the people, the government of Japan has taken every single step to make sure that the method of treated water removed harmful radiological substances and will not pollute the environment,” Ogata added.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company began discharging advanced liquid processing system-treated water from the earthquake-damaged nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean on Aug. 24 amid protests from neighboring islands.
TEPCO has since released 7,800 tons of ALPS-treated water. The process is anticipated to continue for the next 30 to 40 years.
"Although the Japanese government notes that discharging nuclear wastewater into the ocean is standard practice, the amount of wastewater from Fukushima is unprecedented and there is no way to be sure of the kinds of adverse effects it will have 30 years into the future," Sen. Sabina Perez said.
"And once the damage to the ocean food chain and the people occurred, it cannot be easily rectified— not with money, not with apologies," she added.
Perez is the author of Resolution 93-37, calling on Japan to seek alternatives to wastewater discharge plans.
“The people of the Pacific are expected to bear the cost of foreign powers’ nuclear decisions at the expense of our economies, security, environment and health,” states the resolution.
The resolution, which was introduced earlier this year, was publicly heard on Wednesday.
“Enabling Japan to discharge 1.2 million tons of wastewater into our shared ocean without addressing the concerns of other nations within the region sets a scary precedence for the future, especially now that the intense threats of climate change are increasing,” Perez said.
“The Pacific is particularly vulnerable to these consequences, and it is unconscionable to produce more risks," she added.
In his testimony, Ogata said the Japanese government, along with experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency on site, will continuously monitor the water discharge.
“We all share the same Pacific Ocean. Japan cannot survive without the ocean,” Ogata said. “I can assure that discharge is safe but if by monitoring the release, the safety is not guaranteed, then the discharge will be discontinued. As of now, safety is guaranteed.”
Ogata provided the committee with sets of documents relating to the water release plan, which he asked senators to “kindly read.”
“We have taken every opportunity to explain this matter to the government of Guam, senators and mayors,” he added.
Robert Celestial, president of the Pacific Association of Radiation Survivors, advised the government of Guam to establish a monitoring system to regularly assess the potential impact of the presence of radioactive water in the ocean.
“There are scientific data, and some oppose other scientific data,” Celestial said. “We have to be honest to the public. Even though there are scientific data (that have been) produced, there are also data that are classified."
He noted that the treated water being released from Fukushima into the sea produces cancer-causing tritium, a rare radioactive isotope of hydrogen with a half-life of about 12 years.
Celestial said fish caught from the ocean must be monitored to ensure they are safe for consumption.
Monaeka Flores, spokesperson for the activist group Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian, said Japan’s decision to go ahead with the water release plan “ignored the voices of the people of the Pacific.”
“The discharge of radioactive material into the marine environment from the Fukushima plant will inevitably increase exposure to our people and all marine species over several years,” she said. “Depending on multiple variables that we are still coming to understand, the concentration of this contamination will build up and accumulate in the fish over time.”
Japan’s action, she said, “puts the rest of the Pacific in harm’s way.”
Ron McNinch, a professor at the University of Guam, said Japan has “transparently and openly” discussed its process with the international community and the government of Guam.
Holding a legislative hearing on a resolution, which he said has “ideological dent” is not the proper forum to deal with the Fukushima issue,
“I don’t think the ideological approach is appropriate in this diplomatic endeavor,” he said. “I would like to encourage the senators to work with the Japanese government and express your concerns.”
He also took the legislature to task for allowing protest signs displayed behind people who were giving testimony at the hearing.