Oct 6, 2013

World must act to stop #Fukushima nuclear discharge

World must act to stop Fukushima nuclear discharge (China Daily, Oct 5, 2013):

The devastating earthquake in northeastern Japan two years ago caused a nuclear leak at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. In July 2012,Alaskan seals exhibited inexplicable hemorrhage phenomena and signs of immunity deficiency. Scientists suspected the condition had something to do with Japan's discharge of nuclear sewage, or radioactive water, into the Pacific Ocean. However, no evidence has yet confirmed that suspicion. The Japanese government has proposed to take measures to clean up the post-disaster nuclear waste by the end of March 2014. To this point, they have been simply dumping it into the sea.

On Aug 7, 2013, Japan's Nuclear Disaster Countermeasures Headquarters said the daily discharge into the sea was nearly 300 tons. Research analysis shows that underground water is polluted and therefore radioactive discharge cannot be avoided. Currently, the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) are considering pumping underground water into the area to reduce the discharge. By September 2014, the volume of pumped sewage will be 40,000 tons.

Estimates show that the daily outflow of underground water around Fukushima's four nuclear units is 1,000 tons, of which 400 tons flows under the reactors. Of the other 600 tons, 300 tons flows through tunnels between the plants, polluted by the highly concentrated sewage, and then flows into the sea. The remaining 300 tons runs into the sea without pollution. TEPCO is trying to prevent more polluted water reaching the sea, via a new relief project, to reduce daily discharge to 60 tons.

Since the severity of the issue continues, China, along with the international community, must propose the strongest opposition to the Japanese government's irresponsible activities. At the same time, they must take positive measures to prevent pollution. Here are three suggestions.

First, China and other neighboring countries must request the Japanese government take effective measures to stop the continuing discharge, and thus reduce the likelihood of oceanic environmental damage. The Pacific Ocean doesn't belong to Japan, but is commonly owned by the international community, the environmental protection of which is fundamental to the safety and reproduction of human beings. Japan should ensure that not all the fiscal budget goes to military expansion and weaponry. Much should be diverted to solving the post-Fukushima horror.

Second, radioactive sewage discharge results must be published. China and the international community should demand that Japan reveal the results of objective scientific monitoring of the 11,500 tons of radioactive discharge over the past two years, and publish its scale, damage level, as well as a prevention and cure strategy. If the discharge cannot be suspended immediately because of technical limitations, scientific evaluation and projection must be done, followed by agreed measures thereafter. A 12-expert delegation, from Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Russia and the US, was created as the Northern Pacific Radioactive Environmental Quality Assessment Group, whose job is to monitor the resolution of these issues. Chinese experts can particularly take advantage of their strength and lead the group.

Third, regulations must be set up to limit illegal actions. Currently, the oceanic environment is facing significant damage. China and the international community will jointly set up regulations on protecting the oceanic environment from radioactive pollution, after Fukushima. TEPCO must not only compensate the loss of its domestic victims, but also provide the international community with a clear commitment. For the sake of safety, an international agreement banning shipping, fishing or even entering the highly polluted area off the coast of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station needs to be formed.

The safety of the Pacific Ocean is one of the most important issues internationally. Conventional maritime security focus on ensuring maritime navigation safety, combating pirate attacks, preventing collisions and natural disaster. Now, preventing radioactive pollution becomes another issue. The polluted discharge has severe impacts on the oceanic environment; its damage is also unpredictable, and severer than an oceanic conflict or regional war. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs should negotiate with its Japanese counterpart. China's marine authorities should communicate and negotiate with Japan's related authorities over administrative and technical issues. And the international community should keep on pushing the Japanese government to make more progress on this problem.

The author is a researcher from the Shanghai Center for Japanese Studies.

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