Japan to release radioactive wastewater into the Pacific despite regional alarm

Atomic agency to approve Fukushima discharge amid allegations of bribes and widespread environmental concerns.

Proletarian writers

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Western corporate media are lining up to dismiss concerns over Japan’s determination to carry out a programme of massive and long-term dumping of radioactive material into the Pacific Ocean. So much for the ‘green’ credentials of our rulers and their spokespeople!

Proletarian writers

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The Japanese government plans to pump more than one million tonnes of radioactive wastewater, trapped on site ever since the Fukushima disaster, straight into the Pacific Ocean.

In the teeth of impassioned pleas from south Korean fishermen fearful of losing their livelihoods and warnings from Greenpeace about the wider environmental implications, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Authority) seems likely to give the plan the go ahead. (China urges Japanese govt, IAEA to respond to reports of ‘donation’ related to Fukushima water disposal by Xu Keyue, Global Times, 28 June 2023)

Science for hire

But south Korean media reports are now surfacing which throw doubt on the objectivity of the IAEA’s final assessment report that has given Japan the green light. According to these reports, the Japanese government got hold of a draft copy of the report ahead of time and badgered the IAEA to make substantive changes to its text, exerting undue influence on the final report’s conclusion that releasing the water would be safe.

Then came the revelation on 21 June that the government had “made a political donation of more than €1m ($1.1m) to the IAEA in order to resolve differences of opinion between the IAEA and third country experts conducting a review of the nuclear-contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant”.

As a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, Mao Ning, pointed out: “The Japanese government has the responsibility to provide a convincing explanation for the relevant media reports, and the IAEA secretariat should also respond to the matter.” Mao also noted that “People have reason to question whether the conclusion of the final assessment report of the IAEA technical working group is fair and objective.”

The Chinese spokesman expressed the hope that “the IAEA secretariat will adhere to the principles of objectivity, professionalism and impartiality, fully respect and adopt the opinions of experts from all sides of the technical working group, come up with an assessment report that can stand the test of science and history, and not endorse Japan’s dumping plan … The international community will wait and see.”

Indeed, despite the constant assurances expressed by the Japanese government and by Tepco, the Japanese company assigned the task of distilling the wastewater, demands persist from all sides for an open process and a proper level of scientific scrutiny.

Concerns dismissed

China is at the forefront of these demands, with Wu Jianghao, China’s ambassador to Japan, stating: “Japan should stop the plan to release the water into the sea, but seriously consult with the international community and consider a scientific, safe, transparent and convincing response.” (Scientists say Fukushima water is safe, but radiation fears persist by Motoko Rich, New York Times, 4 July 2023)

Right on cue, Britain’s Daily Telegraph condescendingly remarked in the last line of its own piece on the topic that “water containing tritium [a radioactive element] is routinely released from nuclear plants around the world, including in China”, thus implying that the demands for greater transparency by Japan’s neighbours are hypocritical, and not to be taken seriously.

China continues to speak for most of the world, however, when it urgently begs Japan not to take the flawed IAEA report as a “green light” for dumping its radioactive waste into the ocean, for such an act cannot be undone and is likely to have disastrous effects for people and planet long into the future.

According to a Chinese foreign ministry official, the IAEA report “failed to fully reflect views from experts who participated in the review, and its conclusion was not shared by them all. The Chinese side regrets the hasty release of the report.

“Due to its limited mandate, the IAEA failed to review the justification and legitimacy of Japan’s ocean discharge plan, to assess the long-term effectiveness of Japan’s purification facility and corroborate the authenticity and accuracy of Japan’s nuclear-contaminated water data. Therefore, the conclusion is largely limited and incomplete.

“Simply in order to save money, Japan has insisted on discharging nuclear-contaminated water into the sea in disregard of the concerns and opposition from the international community. It is using the Pacific Ocean as a sewer.

“No matter what the report says, it will not change the fact that Japan will release millions of tonnes of Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean in the next three decades.

“Will Japan’s purification facility be effective in the long term? Can the international community be informed in a timely way when the discharged water exceeds the discharge limit? What impact will the long-term accumulation and concentration of radionuclides bring to the marine environment, food safety and people’s health? These are the questions that the IAEA report failed to answer.

“We once again urge the Japanese side to stop its ocean discharge plan, and earnestly dispose of the nuclear-contaminated water in a science-based, safe and transparent manner.” (IAEA report should not be ‘green light’ for Japan’s nuclear-contaminated water discharge, 4 July 2023)

Red to be green

As their tame corporate media line up to sweep these genuine and serious concerns aside and to reassure the public that there’s ‘nothing to see here’, the environmental hypocrisy of the western monopolists who dominate the global capitalist world is once again on full display.

Clearly, only the defeat of the imperialist system and the founding of socialist economies in its place will enable humanity to take and carry out decisions based on need rather than greed. When that time comes there will be plenty of work to do to apply science, technology and ingenuity to the problems left behind by the ravaging monopoly-capitalist order.

For all those who are concerned that seriously beginning such work is urgent and overdue, we appeal to you: join the revolutionary movement and help speed forward the day when we can begin in earnest. You really do have to be red to be green.