Pacific islands urge Japan to delay release of Fukushima waste over contamination fears

SYDNEY: The Pacific Island Forum (PIF) said on Wednesday (Jan 18) that Pacific island nations are urging Japan to delay the release of water from the doomed Fukushima nuclear power plant over fears it could contaminate fisheries.

The Japanese government said last week that water from the doomed Fukushima nuclear power plant could be released into the sea “Around this spring or summer,” raises concerns for island nations still grappling with the legacy of nuclear tests decades ago.

Japan has approved future releases More than 1 million tonnes of water from the site into the sea after treatment in April 2021.

The PIF, a regional bloc of 17 island nations, argues that the release of water could have a major impact on the islands’ economies, which depend on fishing and which provide up to half of the world’s tuna.

“There will be no discharge until all parties are assured that our territory is intact,” PIF Secretary-General Henry Puna told a live-streamed public meeting in Suva, Fiji, on Wednesday.

“We must prevent actions that will lead to or distract us from another major nuclear contamination disaster at the hands of others,” he added, adding that Pacific islanders continue to endure the long-term effects of the legacy of nuclear testing on a daily basis.

The United States conducted nuclear tests in the Pacific Islands in the 1940s and 1950s, and the Marshall Islands continue to campaign for more compensation from Washington for long-term health and environmental impacts.

France conducted nuclear tests at Murura Atoll in the French Pacific between 1966 and 1996.

Ken Buesseler, a scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, told the forum Wednesday that a PIF scientific expert panel was urging Japan to reconsider the release of the waste because it was not supported by data and more information was needed.

Radioactivity moves across the ocean with currents and tides and risks contaminating fish, he said.

Japan’s foreign ministry has previously said regulators have deemed it safe to release the water, which will be filtered to remove most isotopes but will still contain traces of tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that is difficult to separate from water.

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