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Protest over Japan's nuke waste disposal plan precedes Japanese official's visit to Palau, Fiji

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

A coalition of Pacific island organizations reiterated its call for Japan to reconsider its plan to dump radioactive waste into the Pacific Ocean next year. “We believe there is no scenario in which discharging nuclear waste into the Pacific Ocean is justified for the health, well-being, and future safety of Pacific peoples and the environment,” the Pacific Collective on Nuclear Issues said. The coalition issued the statement in anticipation of Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi’s visit to Fiji and Palau this week. “We hope that the leaders and government officials in Fiji and Palau will use the opportunity to reinforce the message to Minister Hayashi that our ocean must not become a free dumping ground for nuclear wastes from the Fukushima nuclear power plant – one of the greatest nuclear disasters of our times,” the Pacific Collective said.


The Japanese government last year announced Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s plans to discharge more than 1.28 million tons of radioactive waste into the Pacific Ocean. “Pacific leaders who were never consulted about the decision have called for all alternative options that don’t impact the Pacific Ocean including storage of nuclear waste material on land,” the Pacific Collective said. The group maintains that Japan’s current plan “is in breach of the Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, and International Laws and Treaties such as the London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution.” Nuclear scientists have attempted to assuage the concerns raised by Japan's neighbors, arguing that other nuclear plants have discharged wastewater similar to TEPCO's planned process. Fisheries and environmental groups, however, condemned the plan, warning about its possible impact on marine resources.


“The Collective continues to hold the view that TEPCO, and the relevant Japanese Government agencies, have willfully and wrongly prioritized convenience and costs of releasing contaminated radioactive waste over the short term and long term environmental and human cost of their planned actions,” the statement reads. The contaminated discharges came from three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima plant, which suffered meltdowns resulting from an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. “The Pacific has suffered the consequences of nuclear testing for generations and people continue to live with the damage done by historical nuclear tests by major powers; the United States, the United Kingdom and France,” the coalition said.


“Therefore, as stated previously, the Collective refutes the veracity of TEPCO’s radiological impact assessment (RIA) released in November 2021. The RIA does not consider the concerns raised by Pacific leaders and other neighboring governments who oppose the current proposed plan by Japan," the coalition said.

The Pacific Collective comprises Diverse Voices and Action for Equality, Fiji Council of Social Services, Marshall Islands Students Association, Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, Pacific Conference of Churches, Pacific Network on Globalization and Youngsolwara Pacific.

According to the Japanese government, Hayashi will tour Palau and Fiji “to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, aimed to diminish China’s growing military and economic influence in the region.”

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