S. Korea raises issue of Fukushima’s contaminated water dump to international convention

Posted on : 2019-10-11 16:07 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Japan says it will keep international community updated on progress
Song Myeong-dal
Song Myeong-dal

The South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF) raised the danger of Japan’s ocean dump of contaminated water from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant as an international issue at a meeting in London concerning an international convention. Japan responded by saying it would keep the international community informed of the progress on an ongoing basis. The developments suggest South Korea was successful in raising international interest in and concern about Japan’s irresponsible approach to the disposal of contaminated water from Fukushima.

On Oct. 10, the MOF reported that the day before, representatives had attended a consultative meeting of contracted parties to the London Convention and Protocol on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter – which opened in London on Oct. 7 – to express concerns to Japan concerning the handling of the contaminated water from Fukushima and request ongoing interest in the issue at the consultative meeting level. The meeting was attended by representatives of 47 contracted parties, as well as international organizations such as the OECD and NGOs including Greenpeace.

“The Japanese government has recently talked several times about the ‘unavoidability’ of an ocean dump as a way of dealing with contaminated water from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant,” Song Myeong-dal, MOF ocean environment policy officer and senior South Korean representative at the meeting, said on Oct. 9.

“If [Japan] does release contaminated water from the plant into the ocean, this could have an impact on the global oceanic environment and be in violation of the aims of the London Protocol,” Song warned. Article 2 of the London Convention and Protocol states that contracting parties “shall individually and collectively protect and preserve the marine environment from all sources of pollution and take effective measures [. . . ] to prevent, reduce and where practicable eliminate pollution caused by dumping or incineration at sea of wastes or other matter.”

Song stressed that the Japanese government “needs to be transparent about its means of handling contaminated nuclear power plant water, adequately communicating and discussing important matters such as its handling methods and schedule with neighboring countries and the international community in the future and deciding on a safe and rational approach.”

“In order to find a method of contaminated nuclear power plant water handling that the international community can be confident is safe, I think this matter should be discussed on an ongoing basis by the consultative meeting of contracted parties to the London Convention and Protocol ,” he suggested.

A consultative meeting of contracted parties to the London Convention and London Protocol on Oct. 7. (provided by the MOF)
A consultative meeting of contracted parties to the London Convention and London Protocol on Oct. 7. (provided by the MOF)

In response, a representative of the Japanese government reiterated the position that the matter was “not something to be discussed by the consultative meeting,” adding that there had been “no decision within the Japanese government on how to handle the contaminated nuclear power plant water” and that the international community would be “kept informed about the process.” The representative also presented information on the water’s handling that was previously shared in September with locally stationed diplomats in Japan.

Greenpeace expresses similar concern about ocean dump

The issue of contaminated water had not previously been discussed within the context of the London Protocol at past consultative meetings since the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster. In addition to South Korea, representatives from China and Chile also expressed concerns at the latest meeting over the possibility of Japan dumping the contaminated water into the sea and suggested that the issue would be the focus of ongoing discussions at the meeting.

The NGO Greenpeace similarly shared concerns about the possibility of an ocean dump in a document at the meeting containing “concerns and questions about the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant contaminated water release plan.” Contending that the Japanese system for handling contaminated nuclear power plant water is “inefficient,” it proposed that the international community work together on finding a solution.

During a Compliance Group meeting held ahead of the consultative meeting on Oct. 3–4, the South Korean representative strongly emphasized the need to review the ocean release of radioactive waste matter within the context of the London Protocol, insisting that Japan should not be allowed to make a unilateral decision on whether to proceed with the dumping of contaminated nuclear power plant water into the ocean. The Compliance Group meeting was established to discuss whether contracted parties to the protocol are complying with their obligations.

“In bilateral meetings with major countries and through issues raised in the Compliance Group setting, the South Korean government rallied support for the position that this matter should be addressed at the consultative meeting,” said Song Myeong-dal.

“We will continue to make such requests at this meeting and other international meetings going forward so that the Japanese government can find an approach that we can be confident is safe,” he pledged.

By Kim Kyu-won, staff reporter

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

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