By Barry Sheppard
Reflecting Washington’s charges, a lurid article in the September 1 New York Times is headlined “Bending Truth, China Stokes Ire Against Japan.”
The gist of the article is that the Chinese reaction to Japan’s release of radioactive water into the Pacific, shutting down all importation of Japanese seafood, is pure propaganda designed to stoke unwarranted fear in the countries of the Asia Pacific against Japan.
Washington’s unfounded charges are part of its justifications for its attacks on China, and threats of war against China.
The decision by the Japanese government and the company, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), that owns the nuclear power plant in Fukushima that suffered a major nuclear meltdown in 2011 and one of whose nuclear fires still burn, to release radioactive cooling water into the Pacific Ocean beginning August 24, has caused major opposition throughout the Asian Pacific.
Reuters reported, “Japan’s controversial plan to release treated waste water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean has sparked anxiety at home and abroad.
Government ignores mass opposition to radioactive dumping
Beginning in Japan itself, KYODO news agency released a poll that found 84 percent of the population says the government has not provided enough information, reflecting mass unease.
The Japanese had the experience of the radiation from the two atomic bombs dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the U.S. in the Second World War, the only time atomic weapons have been used against civilians, and totally unnecessary as Japan was already defeated. The U.S. denied for years that there were any health effects from the radiation.
The Japanese also experienced the massive release of radiation from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, which has left a large area of land uninhabitable, and the lies told about it at the time by TEPCO and the government.
While there have been protests in Tokyo, including by the Japan Confederation of A- and H- Bomb Sufferers, and elsewhere, the people in the Fukushima area, especially the fishermen along the northeast coast including Fukushima, have condemned the release. This is the major area for Japan’s fishing industry. It was only in 2020 that the last prohibition since 2011 on the remaining two types of seafood from the area was dropped.
The organization representing the fishermen tried to stop the release with a lawsuit, which failed.
In South Korea there have been street demonstrations in the thousands, to judge from photos.
The government of Yoon Suk Yeol supported the release. But according to a poll by Gallup Korea, seven in ten respondents said they were concerned about the impact on seafood, and 60% said they were reluctant to eat seafood.
“Half of those who identify as conservative and supportive of the government … also were concerned,” Gallup Korea said.
Yoon’s disapproval ratings rose to 59%, up two points from before the release.
IAEC states release poses no public health problem
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the release posed no health problems. How do they know? TEPCO told them so. The head of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, visited South Korea to try to smooth things over.
He told lawmakers from the liberal Democratic Party, who control a majority in South Koreas’s parliament, “Our conclusion has been that this plan, if it is carried out the way it has been presented, would be in line, would be in conformity with international safety standards,” according to the Associated Press. He acknowledged concerns how the Japanese plans “would play out in reality.”
“The lawmakers responded by sharply criticizing the IAEA’s review,” the AP said, “which they say neglected long-term environmental and health impacts of the wastewater release and threatens to set a bad precedent that may encourage other countries to dispose nuclear waster water into the sea. They called for Japan to scrap the discharge plans and work with neighboring countries to find safer ways to handle the wastewater, including a possible pursuit of long-term storage on land.
“The party has also criticized the government of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol for putting people’s health at risk while trying to improve relations with Japan.
“‘If you think (the treated wastewater) is safe, I wonder if you would be willing to suggest use of that water for drinking or for industrial and agricultural purposes, rather than dumping it into the sea.’ Woo Won-shik, a Democratic Party lawmaker who attended the meeting, told Grossi. The Party said Woo has been on a hunger strike for the past 14 days to protest the Japanese discharge plan.”
The meeting was held while protestors screamed outside the door, holding signed denouncing the IAEA and Japan.
In the Philippines, the organization of Filipino fishermen, abbreviated PAMALAKAYA in the Tagalog language, held a demonstration with signs opposing the release.
“The Japanese government must heed the growing clamor of its neighboring countries to protect the world’s largest and deepest ocean from the toxic radioactive wastes,” said Ronnel Arambulo, vice chairman of the organization.
PAMALAKAYA said the release of the wastewater could impact fishing resources, coinciding with the approaching northeast monsoon. It noted that the resource-rich Philippine Rise, located east of Luzon, is one of the most vulnerable and exposed parts of the country’s seas.
The group also warned that the wastewater could reach the Bicol region and other parts of the archipelago of islands making up the Philippines.
There are many Pacific island nations whose population depend on the sea, who are opposed.
The reason given for the release is that the 1000 tanks which have stored the water used since 2011 to cool the cores of the nuclear reactors are full and must be emptied. Releases will take 30 years to complete.
The cooling water becomes contaminated with dangerous radioactive materials as it comes into contact with the cores.
The justifications for the U.S., EU and Australia’s assertions that the wastewater release is safe, that are repeated in the media with little opposition voices heard.
What this comes down to are TEPCO’s unfounded assertions, repeated by Washington, that it can filter out all the radioactive isotopes except tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, incorporated in the water molecules to be released. And anyway the half life of tritium is about 12.5 years, so a half of it will disappear in that many years, so not to worry.
But there are debates in the scientific community about the potential harmful health effects of large amounts of tritium, which will be released just offshore.
Moreover, the releases, it is asserted, are just a drop in the bucket of the vast oceans of the world, and will be diluted so much as to be negligible.
Leading scientists dispute release
But these assertions are refuted by one of the world’s leading marine scientists, Dr. Ken Bruesseler, of the prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who studies what happens to radioactive elements in the ocean.
He says, “Tritium is not the only radioisotope of concern for stored contaminated water.” He lists isotopes of ruthenium, cobalt, and strontium as the more dangerous, but also of antimony, cesium, technetium, cobalt, and carbon.
“These radioactive isotopes behave differently than tritium in the ocean and are more readily incorporated into marine biota or seafloor sediments. For example, the biological concentration factors in fish are up to 50,000 higher for carbon-14 than tritium. Also, isotopes such as cobalt-60 are up to 300,000 times more likely to end up associated with seafloor sediments.
“As a result, models of the behavior of tritium in the ocean, with
tritium’s rapid dispersion and dilution, cannot be used to assess the fate of these other potential contaminants.”
Breussler says “supporting independent ocean study of multiple contaminants in seawater, marine biota, and seafloor sediments should occur before, during, and after” the releases. “Although the operators have promised some of this, actions will matter more than words.”
He also says that such independent studies must include the fishermen.
“What needs to be added to the discussion is that the non-tritium isotopes in those tanks have vastly different toxicities and fates in the ocean.”