In a July 12 meeting on the sidelines of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol discussed the planned ocean discharge of treated water from the Tokyo Electric Holdings Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. They concurred on the top priorities of safety and transparency, and "continuing close communications between the relevant authorities of both countries."
In a comprehensive report, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has acknowledged that Japan's plan meets international safety standards. Based on its own verification, the South Korean government, has also confirmed the absence of concerns. We welcome the Yoon administration's evidence-based and rational approach. This approach contributes to the improvement of Japan-South Korea relations.
Overcoming Obstruction Through Transparency
However, in South Korea, opposition parties have strongly criticized the plan. They have labeled the ALPS treated water as "contaminated water" and opposed its release. As a result, public concerns about seafood contamination have escalated. And there have even been instances of panic-buying of salt.
These actions have been fueled by misinformation. They include the false claim that after the release, salt from seawater cannot be used to make kimchi.
Naturally, it is up to the Japanese government to decide when to proceed with releasing the treated water under the plan confirmed as safe by the IAEA. This decision does not require consent from neighboring countries.
Nevertheless, it is crucial to actively counter the spread of baseless rumors. That requires effective communications and transparent and accurate sharing of safety information with other nations.
China's Inconvenient Truth
China's response, in stark contrast to the Yoon administration, has been outrageous. Disregarding the scientific explanations provided by the IAEA and Japan, they have chosen to label the treated water as "nuclear-contaminated water." This is an unfounded and one-sided attack.
It completely disregards the inconvenient truth that China itself releases significantly larger amounts of tritium from its own nuclear plants. The tritium flowing from Chinese facilities into the East China Sea and elsewhere dwarfs Japan's planned release from Fukushima Daiichi.
China wildly claims that "the ocean is a global public asset and not Japan's ‘sewer system.'" And it says that "the release of radioactively contaminated water poses risks to the marine environment, human life, and health." These claims are utterly baseless.
Moreover, their intimidating threats that Japan must "bear all consequences" if the treated water is discharged are unwarranted. If that is the case, then China should be held accountable for a whole host of issues. Among them are the COVID-19 pandemic, China's space debris, marine pollution, and significant carbon dioxide emissions.
Recognizing the Importance of Disaster Recovery
It is furthermore regrettable that the Hong Kong government has suggested expanding the ban on Japanese seafood imports. It has also been operating under strong influence from the Chinese government. Opposition to the release has also been expressed by Russia and North Korea.
Such obstacles must not sway the Kishida administration. Furthermore, the United States has expressed support for the comprehensive report by the IAEA. And the European Union (EU) has announced the complete removal of import restrictions on Japanese food products.
Moreover, many countries around the world recognize the importance of the upcoming treated water release for the recovery of Fukushima. It is essential to proceed with preparations while seeking understanding from the fishing industry.
- Fukushima Daiichi Tritium: Dwarfed by China, Other Foreign Discharges
- Official: Fukushima Water Release Will Have 'Negligible Impact' on the Environment
- Safer than Safe: Inside Fukushima’s Food Monitoring System
(Read the editorial in Japanese.)
Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun