Don't dump nuclear waste in Pacific: P.I.F. urges Japan

Pacific Islands Forum (P.I.F) has appealed to Japan to hold off from discharging nuclear into the Pacific Ocean from the Fukushima power plant that was destroyed by a tsunami in 2011.

Japan had announced recently that it will release contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea, which is a decision that comes more than a decade after the nuclear disaster.

Work to release the diluted water will begin in two years and the process is expected to take decades.

However, outgoing P.I.F. Secretary-General, Dame Meg Taylor issued a statement on Tuesday calling for a halt to the decision.

"In my capacity as Depositary of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga), as Pacific Ocean Commissioner, and on behalf of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific: we note, with deep concern, the decision by the Government of Japan to discharge the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) Treated Water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the Pacific Ocean, and wish to highlight and reiterate the position of the Pacific Islands Forum region in relation to this matter," she said in a statement.

"For decades, Forum Leaders have expressed strong concern regarding nuclear legacy issues. At their last meeting in 2019, Leaders expressed concern for the significance of the potential threat of nuclear contamination to the health and security of the Blue Pacific, her people and prospects. 

"They acknowledged the importance of addressing the long-standing issues of nuclear testing legacy in the Pacific, and called for the operationalisation of the provisions of the Treaty of Rarotonga."

She explained in the statement that the Treaty of Rarotonga is determined to keep the region free of environmental pollution by radioactive wastes and other radioactive matter. 

The statement further explains that the Meeting of the States Parties to the Treaty of Rarotonga just four months ago on 15 December 2020, Forum Members “reaffirmed unity in our continued commitment to a nuclear free Pacific and a nuclear weapons free world, and further reaffirmed our determination for a region free of environmental pollution by radioactive wastes and other radioactive matter”.

"In 'acknowledging Japan’s efforts to date and its engagement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)', the States Parties also 'recalled concerns of the environmental impact about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Reactor accident in 2011, and urged Japan to take all steps necessary to address any potential harm to the Pacific'," she added.

"We are of the view that steps have not been sufficiently taken to address the potential harm to our Blue Pacific Continent, including possible environmental, health, and economic impacts. 

"Our fisheries and oceans resources are critical to our Pacific livelihoods and must be protected."

According to Dame Meg, it is required under international law and as highlighted by the States Parties in December 2020, Japan should take all appropriate measures within its territory, jurisdiction, or control to prevent significant transboundary harm to the territories of the Pacific.

"These obligations are reiterated under the 1986 Convention for the Protection of the Natural Resources and Environment of the South Pacific Region (Noumea Convention) and related Protocols, the 1995 Convention to Ban the Importation into Forum Island Countries of Hazardous and Radioactive Wastes and to Control the Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within the South Pacific Region (Waigani Convention)," she said.

"We therefore urgently call on the Government of Japan to hold off the conduct of the discharge of the A.L.P.S Treated Water until further consultations are undertaken with Pacific Island Forum Members and an independent expert review is undertaken to the satisfaction of all our Members."

Samoa's Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Secretariat of The pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P) have been contacted for comments.

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