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Don’t Release Contaminated Water into the Ocean!

Opinion Paper Demanding a Halt to the “Oceanic Release” of ALPS-treated Contaminated Water

Submitted to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry on August 30

Seikatsu Club is a consumers’ co-operative that established its own radiation standards for food products in collaboration with producers in the wake of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in 1986. Since the severe radioactive contamination caused by the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, we have been engaged in activities to support our partner producers and work with citizens’ organizations to provide relief to victims of the nuclear accident and to promote a nuclear-free society.
On August 30, 2023, we submitted a written opinion to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry asking them to refrain from “oceanic release” of ALPS*-treated contaminated water into the ocean.
* ALPS: Advanced Liquid Processing System
August 30, 2023
Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union (SCCCU)

At a meeting of relevant ministers on August 22, 2023, the government decided on the timing of “release into the ocean” of ALPS treated water from Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. TEPCO began releasing the contaminated water into the ocean on the 24th. SCCCU strongly protests this decision from the following points and calls for a halt to the release.

1. A democratic consensus has not been reached on the release

In 2015, TEPCO and the Japanese government made a commitment regarding ALPS-treated contaminated water to the Fukushima Prefecture Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives, pledging that “Necessary actions are to be taken, such as careful explanations to relevant parties, including those related to fisheries, and no disposal will be made without this process and the understanding of relevant parties.” The Kengyoren (Fukushima Prefecture Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives) and Zengyoren (National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives) have repeatedly expressed their opposition to the release, and the Kengyoren adopted a special resolution against the oceanic release of ALPS-treated contaminated water for the fourth consecutive year at its general meeting held in Iwaki City on June 30. In Fukushima Prefecture, the prefectural assembly and about 70 percent of the municipal assemblies in the prefecture have adopted resolutions or written opinions to the government opposing or calling for prudent handling of the oceanic release.

A report released by a government subcommittee in February 2020 stated that “After careful discussions with the people in the local area and related industries, the government will make a decision if a national consensus is reached.” A total of seven “forums to ask your opinion” have been held in Fukushima, Tokyo, and other locations, but it cannot be said that thorough discussions with the local people and related industries have been conducted. Deciding government policy at a meeting of relevant ministers while many problems remain unsolved is not a democratic process.

2. The total remaining amount of radioactive material other than tritium has not been revealed

In addition to tritium, ALPS-treated contaminated water contains a variety of other radioactive substances. TEPCO currently says it will “apply secondary treatment to remove radioactive materials other than tritium to bring them down to below the standard,” but has not indicated the total amount or types of radioactive materials remaining in the water. On the contrary, TEPCO has taken detailed measurements of radioactivity in only three groups of tanks, representing slightly less than three percent of the total water. In addition, tritium, which cannot be removed by the treatment equipment, will be diluted with seawater to meet regulatory standards, but “release of ALPS-treated contaminated water into the ocean” means “dumping diluted contaminated water into the ocean,” and we demand that this be stopped immediately. Since the environmental accumulation and bioconcentration of these radioactive materials can occur, there is concern over the internal exposure of people due to their uptake, and this facile decision to release these materials into the ocean is therefore absolutely unacceptable. Instead of leaving it up to TEPCO, we demand that the government assess and disclose the status of radioactive materials in ALPS-treated contaminated water.

The IAEA comprehensive report published in July did not carry an environmental impact assessment of the 30 years of releases, and the IAEA does not require TEPCO or the Japanese government to conduct such an assessment. The Nuclear Regulation Authority is also not taking the issue seriously, as there is no provision in the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Act requiring the implementation of an environmental impact assessment.

3. There is also concern about the negative impact of the oceanic release of ALPS-treated contaminated water on the future of fisheries and children

On August 24, the first day of the release, the Chinese government announced a total suspension of Japanese seafood imports. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the total value of seafood exports in 2022 was 387.3 billion yen, with China being the top export destination at 87.1 billion yen and Hong Kong at 75.5 billion yen, surpassing 40 percent of total exports. The government has earmarked a total of 80 billion yen in the supplementary budget and a fund to combat reputational damage, but the economic losses will exceed that amount. If actual and reputational damage caused by the release of ALPS-treated contaminated water into the ocean becomes more widespread, it will undoubtedly have a devastating impact not only on the fishing industry in the Tohoku region but throughout Japan.

This will be a great disappointment to those in the fishing industry who have been striving to recover from the effects of the 2011 earthquake and will once again deprive fishermen of their livelihoods and hopes. Five UN experts, including the Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights and the Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health, issued a statement on March 11, 2021 saying that “Releasing contaminated water into the Pacific raises future health risks for children” and is thus a violation of human rights.

The decision to release the water into the ocean without gaining consensus from local fishermen and citizens, and amid criticism from neighboring countries, has been carried out based on the assumption of oceanic release from the outset, and is sorely lacking in validity. The oceanic release also sets the stage for the operation of Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant, which will require enormous amounts of tritium being dumped into the ocean. The Fukushima oceanic release can therefore be seen as strategic preparation for the Rokkasho tritium releases to maintain the nuclear fuel cycle policy. Giving priority to an understanding of the full extent of the radioactive materials contained in ALPS-treated contaminated water, we strongly urge the immediate cessation of the “oceanic release,” the securing of new sites for storage tanks, and a reconsideration of alternative proposals for handling the contaminated water.

Published on September 1, 2023



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