THE ENVIRONMENT - Japan cannot possibly outlive the atrocity of dumping radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean. In fact, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is an example of how nuclear meltdowns negatively impact the entire world, as its toxic wastewater travels across the world in ocean currents. The dumping of stored toxic wastewater from the meltdown in 2011 officially started on August 24th, 2023. Meanwhile, the country restarts some of the nuclear plants that were shut down when the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Plant exploded.
Fukushima’s broken reactors are an example of why nuclear energy is a trap that can’t handle global warming or extreme natural disasters. Nuclear is an accident waiting to happen, for several reasons, including victimization by forces of global warming.
According to Dr. Paul Dorfman, chair of the Nuclear Consulting Group, former secretary to the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Internal Radiation, and Visiting Fellow, University of Sussex: “It’s important to understand that nuclear is very likely to be a significant climate casualty. For cooling purposes nuclear reactors need to be situated by large bodies of water, etc. …” Essentially, global warming is nuclear energy’s Waterloo; it has already seriously endangered France’s 56 nuclear reactors with partial shutdowns because of extreme global warming. Nuclear reactors cannot survive global warming. See “the nuclear energy trap” link at the end of this article.
TEPCO’s treacherous act of dumping radioactive water into a wide-open ocean is a deliberate violation of human decency, as it clearly violates essential provisions of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) General Safety Guide No. 8 (GSG-8).
Japan should be forced to stop its diabolical exercise of potentially destroying precious life. Shame on the IAEA and shame on the member countries of the G7 for endorsing this travesty. They’ve christened the ocean an “open sewer.” Hark! Come one, come all, dump your trash, open toxic spigots, bring chemicals, bring fertilizers, bring plastic, bring radioactive waste that’s impossible to dispose… the oceans are open sewers. It’s free! Yes, it’s free but only weak-minded people would allow a broken-down crippled nuclear power plant to dump radioactive waste into the world’s ocean. It is a testament to human frailty, weakness, insipience, not courage.
According to Arjun Makhijani, Ph.D. Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, TEPCO’s ALPS-treated Radioactive Water Dumping Plan Violates Essential Provisions of IAEA’s General Safety Guide No. 8 (GSG-8) and Corresponding Requirements in Other IAEA Documents, June 28, 2023: “The IAEA is an important United Nations institution. Like the rest of the Expert Panel, the author of this paper has been reluctant to criticize the IAEA. Yet, its outright refusal to apply its own guidance documents in full measure is stark. Its constricted view of the dumping plan has allowed it to evade its responsibilities to many countries. Its eagerness to assure the public that harm will be “negligible” has been carried to the point of grossly overstating well-known facts about tritium. The serious lapses of the IAEA in the Fukushima radioactive water matter have made criticism unavoidable.”
“Greenpeace rejects Japan’s claim that all nuclear isotopes except tritium have been removed from the wastewater. It claims that at least one other radioactive isotope, Carbon-14, remains, and that many more, including Strontium 90 and Cesium 137, remain as yet untreated in most of the storage tanks.” (Source: Richard Broinowski, More Fallout from Fukushima, Pearls and Irritations, July 8, 2023)
Japan is signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: “Japan’s policy to release wastewater into the Pacific Ocean constitutes a violation of Japan’s obligations under UNCLOS Article 192, which requires state parties to ‘protect and preserve the marine environment.’ Additionally, Japan’s pollution of the marine environment from land-based sources violates UNCLOS Article 207.” (Source: Victoria Cruz-De Jesus, Preserving the Sea in a Radioactive World: How Japan's Plan to Release Treated Nuclear Wastewater into the Pacific Ocean Violates UNCLOS, American University International Law Review, Vol. 27, Issue 4, 2023)
Adding insult to injury, Japan considered several available waste disposal measures that, in part, would have complied with portions of its treaty obligations under UNCLOS Article 192 and Article 207 but ultimately settled for the cheapest, easiest, most convenient, yet most harmful, policy, dumping it into the Pacific Ocean, which conveniently is “right next door.” Japan could have chosen (1) geosphere injection or (2) underground burial as options that lessen the risks of nuclear waste released into the environment, or they could build more storage tanks. But both #1 and #2 options are considerably more expensive.
As a result, Japan’s outrageous disregard for nature has only served to highlight the insanity surrounding nuclear energy: “The Japanese Government and TEPCO falsely claim that discharge is the only viable option necessary for eventual decommissioning. Nuclear power generation, which experiences shutdowns due to accidents and natural disasters, and perpetually requires thermal power as a backup, cannot serve as a solution to global warming.” (Source: Japan Announces Date for Fukushima Radioactive Water Release, Greenpeace International Press Release, August 22, 2023)
According to Greenpeace, which has strong expertise in nuclear energy: “As of 8 June 2023, there were 1,335,381 cubic meters of radioactive wastewater stored in tanks, but due to the failure of the ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System) processing technology, approximately 70% of this water will have to be processed again. Scientists have warned that the radiological risks from the discharges have not been fully assessed, and the biological impacts of tritium, carbon-14, strontium-90 and iodine-129, which will be released in the discharges, have been ignored,” Ibid.
It seems inconceivable, but true, at a time when the world’s oceans are confronted with immense stress (1) inordinate record-setting heat (2) illegal overfishing to the point of near exhaustion of major fishing stock (3) human trash accumulating in vast swirls of rotting garbage, e.g., the Great Pacific Garbage Patch three times the size of France; plus four more major garbage patches in the oceans (4) rampant levels of agricultural pesticides and fertilizers, (5) tons of plastic and (6) industrial discharges. In the face of so much stress, Japan has the nerve to add toxic radioactive muck from a crippled nuclear power plant. Oh, please!
“For years, we have looked at the ocean as a dumping ground. Because it was out of sight and out of mind, we have treated it like a universal sewer.” (Jean Michel Cousteau, St. Petersburg Times) Cousteau has spent a lifetime fighting to expose ocean abuse, saying it needs to stop “if marine life, and therefore everything on the planet, is going to survive.” Alas, Japan is violating everything Cousteau ever stood for.
As a result of indiscretions, will Japan essentially self-destruct its economy as boycotts of products follow in the footsteps of its blatant disregard for the health of the ocean?
China has banned all seafood from Japan, calling the release a “selfish and irresponsible act.” Chinese social media registered 800,000,000 views on Weibo, filled with anger. China is Japan’s largest buyer of seafood accounting for one-half of Japan’s seafood exports.
Major Japanese cosmetics manufacturers have seen sales drop along with public share prices as Chinese internet users began compiling lists of Japanese brands to boycott, attracting 300,000,000 views on Weibo. The boycott could be a “trigger for Chinese consumers to switch away from Japanese premium cosmetics brands,” said Wakako Sato, an analyst for Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co. (Source: Controversial Fukushima Nuclear Waste Plan Spurs Chinese Boycott of Japanese Cosmetics, Time, June 22, 2023)
On Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, users have circulated lists of Japanese brands ranging from cosmetics to food and beverages. urging people not to buy those products.
South Korea and Hong Kong are banning Japanese seafood from Fukushima and nine other prefectures. North Korea’s Foreign Ministry called the release a “crime against humanity,” which Japan can only view as the most humiliating insult of all time.
Is Japan setting a dangerous precedent? According to the New York Times, d/d August 22, 2023: “If Japan dumps its tainted Fukushima water in the ocean, what’s to stop other countries from doing the same?” Indeed, this may be one of the most deadly consequences of TEPCO’s dumping, with G7 approval.
"We've seen an inadequate radiological, ecological impact assessment that makes us very concerned that Japan would not only be unable to detect what's getting into the water, sediment and organisms, but if it does, there is no recourse to remove it... there's no way to get the genie back in the bottle," marine biologist Robert Richmond, a professor with the University of Hawaii, told the BBC's Newsday programme.” (Source: Fukushima: What are the Concerns Over Waste Water Release? BBC News, August 25, 2023)
TEPCO admits to some level of radiation when it releases water from storage tanks. According to a CNN news article, Japan claims other countries are also guilty of releasing tritium-laced water into the ocean. So, why can’t they also do it? However, this misses the point that nobody should be allowed to release radioactive water into the oceans. Furthermore, TEPCO’s concentrations, with 60 highly toxic radioactive isotopes, hopefully treated by ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System) processing technology, makes other dumpers look like pipsqueaks. Even worse yet, Greenpeace/Japan, and others, have strong reservations about the effectiveness of ALPS, and consider: Who’s measuring?
The U.S. National Association of Marine Laboratories, with over 100 member laboratories, issued a position paper strongly opposing the toxic dumping because of a lack of adequate and accurate scientific data in support of Japan’s assertions of safety.
And regardless of Japan’s attempts to downplay the dumping as inconsequential, it has been scientifically established that even very low doses of radioactivity bio-accumulate in the human body, as well as in marine life, over time leading to physical deterioration because of DNA damage.
“At high doses, ionizing radiation can cause immediate damage to a person’s body, including, at very high doses, radiation sickness and death. At lower doses, ionizing radiation can cause health effects such as cardiovascular disease and cataracts, as well as cancer. It causes cancer primarily because it damages DNA, which can lead to cancer-causing gene mutations.” (Source: National Cancer Institute)
How is it possible to justify dumping any amount of radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean? Is the world’s consciousness so low, so lacking a moral compass, that it’s okay to dump the most toxic material on the planet into the oceans?
Stop destroying the oceans!
And please contemplate the dire ramifications of the nuclear energy trap.
(Robert Hunziker, MA, economic history DePaul University, awarded membership in Pi Gamma Mu International Academic Honor Society in Social Sciences is a freelance writer and environmental journalist who has over 200 published articles appearing in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide.)