Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told his counterpart South Korean President Moon Jae In: “The quantity of radioactive substances in treated water released at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex is less than one-hundredth of that in effluents from a nuclear plant in South Korea”.
The exchange took place when the two met in Chengdu, China, on December 24, 2019, according to diplomatic sources knowledgeable about Tokyo-Seoul relations.
Prime Minister Abe, mindful of the Moon administration’s ban on food imports from Japan, including marine products from Fukushima Prefecture, was quoted by the sources as asking for South Korea to engage in science-based discussions relevant to the issue.
The South Korean ban has been in place since the 2011 meltdown at the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power complex. President Moon reportedly took no issue with the Prime Minister’s statement.
The Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex is currently pumping up groundwater from what is called the subdrain system, a group of wells installed near the buildings that house the tsunami-struck nuclear reactor. The aim is to lessen the water that flows into the reactor buildings. After confirmation that purification has brought contaminants in the water below a government-set permissible level, and only then, the treated water is then discharged into the sea.
The quantity of tritium released from the subdrain system stood at about 130 billion becquerels during the whole year of 2016, according to documents made public by the government subcommittee studying ways of purifying the tritium-laced water.
Meanwhile, the amount of tritium discharged in the form of liquids by the Wolseong Nuclear Power Plant, one of South Korea’s major nuclear power facilities near the South Korean coastal town of Gyeongju, reached about 17 trillion becquerels during the same year. This level is approximately 130 times as large as the radioactive substances released by TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 3 nuclear plant. This comparison seems to be what Prime Minister Abe had in mind during his talks with President Moon.
Regarding the environment in marine waters surrounding the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has come out with an assessment, saying:
Ongoing monitoring in the surrounding ocean area has detected no significant increase in radiation levels outside the port or in the open sea, and has shown that radiation levels in these areas remain within the standards of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines for drinking water.
Based on these scientific findings, in 2019 there was a surge in international moves to ease regulations on food imports from Japan. Bahrain, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Brunei abolished their regulatory controls on importation of Japan-produced foodstuffs, while the European Union (EU) significantly diminished its list of safety certificates required for the import of farm produce and marine products from affected regions of Japan.
South Korea, far from moving toward easing regulations, has increased its testing for radioactivity on food items from Japan, thereby slowing the import process.
Diplomatic sources in Japan and South Korea also cited Prime Minister Abe as explaining the IAEA assessment to President Moon, pointing out the need for both countries to “discuss the issue coolheadedly, as well as scientifically.”
It seems the Prime Minister dared to refer to the comparison of radioactivity data in Japan and South Korea with a view to prodding South Korea to deal with the issue on scientific grounds instead of adamantly continuing its import restrictions in a manner counter to the international trend.
Nevertheless, the sources said, President Moon showed no reaction at all, raising no arguments or objections in response to Prime Minister Abe’s appeal.
(Click here to read the original article in Japanese.)
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Author: The Sankei Shimbun