Environmentalists have accused the world’s biggest economies of putting politics before science.
The accusation comes after the meeting of the G7 ministers in Japan earlier this week backed the country’s plans to discharge water from the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which was badly damage by a Tsunami into the pacific Ocean.
The news has been met by outrage from Greenpeace which said the wastewater was radioactive and would cause extensive damage to the ocean’s eco-system.
“The nations of the G7 have chosen politics over science and the protection of the marine environment with their decision today to support the Japanese government’s plans to discharge Fukushima radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean,” the group said in a statement. “The 1.3 million cubic meters/tons of radioactive wastewater at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, currently in tanks, is scheduled to be discharged into the Pacific Ocean this year.
“Nations in the Asia Pacific region, led by the Pacific Island Forum, have strongly voiced their opposition to the plans. Some of the world’s leading oceanographic institutes and marine scientists have criticised the weakness of the scientific justification applied by TEPCO, the owner of the nuclear plant, warned against using the Pacific Ocean as a dumping ground for radioactive contaminated water, and called for alternatives to discharge to be applied.”
Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace East Asia, warned the plan went against United Nation’s maritime laws.
“The Japanese government is desperate for international endorsement for its Pacific Ocean radioactive water dump plans,” he said. “It has failed to protect its own citizens, including the vulnerable fishing communities of Fukushima, as well as nations across the wider Asia Pacific region. The aftermath of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima is still strongly felt, and the Japanese government has failed to fully investigate the effects of discharging multiple radionuclides on marine life. The government is obligated under international law to conduct a comprehensive environmental impact assessment, including the impact of transboundary marine pollution, but has failed to do so. Its plans are a violation of the UN Convention Law of the Sea.
“The marine environment is under extreme pressure from climate change, overfishing and resource extraction. Yet, the G7 thinks it’s acceptable to endorse plans to deliberately dump nuclear waste into the ocean. Politics inside the G7 at Sapporo just trumped science, environmental protection, and international law.”
Greenpeace East Asia added its analysis has detailed the failures of liquid waste processing technology at the Fukushima Daiichi plant and the environmental threats posed by the releases.
“There is no prospect of an end to the nuclear crisis at the plant as current decommissioning plans are not feasible,” it added. “Furthermore, the report finds the nuclear fuel debris in the reactors cannot be completely removed and will continue to contaminate the ground water over many decades. Claims that the discharges will take 30 years is inaccurate as in reality, it will continue into the next century. Viable alternatives to discharge, specifically long term storage and processing, have been ignored by the Japanese government.”
Greenpeace added in its view the Japanese government’s attempt to normalise the Fukushima nuclear disaster is directly linked to its overall energy policy objective of increasing the operation of nuclear reactors again after the 2011 disaster. 54 reactors were available in 2011 compared to only ten reactors in 2022, generating 7.9% of the nation’s electricity in FY21 compared to 29% in 2010. Meanwhile, five of the other six G7 governments led by France, the US and the UK are also aggressively promoting nuclear power development.
“The idea that the nuclear industry is capable of delivering a safe and sustainable energy future is delusional and a dangerous distraction from the only viable energy solution to the climate emergency which is 100% renewable energy,” said Burnie. “The global growth of low cost renewable energy has been phenomenal – but it has to be much faster and at an even greater scale if carbon emissions are to be reduced by 2030. Approval for nuclear waste dumping and nuclear energy expansion sound like the 1970’s but we have no time for such distractions. We are in a race to save the climate in the 21st century, and only renewables can deliver this.”