The government of Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide has decided to release contaminated water from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) into the ocean off Fukushima. The contaminated water is building at the reactor in the aftermath of the accident at the nuclear plant. On April 13, the government adopted a “basic policy” on disposing of treated radioactive water. It plans to release the water into sea ostensibly as part of the reconstruction of Fukushima in defiance of strong opposition by fishermen, who use marine resources as their means of living. The decision, which will doubly force Fukushima to endure damage, must not be tolerated. The National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) strongly demands that the government withdraw the decision, continue to have the operator of the nuclear plant keep the treated water on the ground, listen to the fishers and the people of Fukushima, and concentrate the wisdom of experts at home and internationally to remove radioactive substances, including tritium.
The “basic policy” says that the government is “firmly determined to prevent reputational damage from occurring” and that it will “make every effort to help people deepen understanding” of the policy. Speaking at a meeting of the related Cabinet members, Prime Minister Suga said, “The government as one will make efforts to remove reputational damage and explain as much as possible.” But he hasn’t responded to the fishermen’s criticism that the government decision “amounts to rubbing salt in the wounds at this time when full-fledged fishing is about to start for the first time in 10 years.” It is shifting the responsibility for avoiding reputational damage and for paying compensation for such damage on to TEPCO.
The “basic policy” says, “If the release into the ocean of the radioactive water treated by ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System) causes new reputational damage, the efforts that have been made so far will come to nothing and agonize people.” At any rate, the dumping of radioactive substances in the ocean would bring about nothing good but another contamination. If we are to avoid reputational damage or marine contamination, the decision to release the treated radioactive water must be revoked.
It is pointed out that 70 percent of the radioactive water accumulating in the tanks is treated insufficiently and that in addition to tritium, other radioactive materials are remaining, and that their radioactivity levels are higher than those permitted by the government standards. TEPCO says the treated contaminated water will be re-purified. But it is unclear what radioactive materials will remain after the treatment.
Opposition to the release of treated radioactive water into the sea is arising not only in Japan. Although the government says, “It is necessary to make every effort to gain support from the Japanese people and the international community,” South Korea and China are voicing concerns. Opposition to the release of radioactive water into the sea has reportedly been expressed by 311 organizations from 24 countries, including Republic of Korea, Britain, and France. The government is called upon to face up in earnest to public opinion in Japan and abroad.
Commenting on the decision, Prime Minister Suga insists that decommissioning and reconstruction are inseparable by saying, “Disposing of the treated water is a process that is unavoidable for decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.” But he has never shown a roadmap toward the decommissioning. TEPCO says that it’s difficult to build additional storage tanks for radioactive water because of the need to build temporary storage site for the fuel debris retrieved during the decommissioning of the reactor. But there is space in the site, and it is possible to add storage tanks on the ground.
Zenroren opposes the government policy of abandoning Fukushima. It will work with the Joint Center for the Reconstruction of Fukushima and with the many people to push ahead with the movement towards true reconstruction. It is also determined to strive to build a Japan without nuclear power.