M.N.R.E., S.P.R.E.P. mum on Japan’s nuclear water dump

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P) remain mum on Japan’s decision to dump one million tonnes of treated nuclear water into the Pacific Ocean in 2023. 

Both agencies were contacted by the Samoa Observer on Friday as member nations of the Pacific Islands Forum meet this week with the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) regarding Japan’s decision to discharge a million tonnes of treated water into the Pacific Ocean.

In his first official address to member nations of the Forum made on 3 June, Secretary General Henry Puna re-iterated the region’s call for independent assessments of Japan’s decision.

Mr. Puna made the call in his opening statement at a briefing for Forum members by the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) Rafael Grossi regarding Japan’s Decision to dump treated water into the Pacific. 

Addressing leaders and senior officials of various Pacific governments, he said it was “the first time that I address members in my capacity as Secretary General for the Pacific Islands Forum.” 

“It is my distinct honour to have been entrusted this position by our Leaders and allow me to reaffirm with you my personal commitment to work with you all to ensure the solidarity and uphold the principles of our Forum Family,” Mr. Puna said. 

“In turning to the session at hand, I thank you all for joining us this afternoon or evening for this very important briefing. It is indeed an honour to welcome the Director General Rafael Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

He said he is heartened by the I.A.E.A.’s “acknowledgement of the Forum’s grave concerns.” 

“The Pacific’s engagement with the I.A.E.A. spans many decades, in view of the nuclear testing legacy issues that remain unresolved and that continue to pose serious environmental and health concerns for the Pacific,” Mr. Puna said.

“I am heartened by the I.A.E.A.’s acknowledgement of the Forum’s grave concerns in relation to Japan’s decision to discharge A.L.P.S. water into the Pacific Ocean. Thank you for accepting our invitation to facilitate this briefing for the Blue Pacific region.”

He joined Deputy Secretary General Manoni in commending the Chair and Members of the PALM9 Senior Officials Meeting, “for this important initiative” and acknowledged, in particular, “New Zealand for its invaluable support in facilitating this event.”

The work of the I.A.E.A. to support member nations’ efforts in adopting and implementing the highest standards of nuclear non-proliferation safeguards was also acknowledged. 

“Indeed, the safeguards mechanism is a fundamental pillar of our very own Treaty of Rarotonga,” said Mr. Puna. 

“As Parties to this Treaty, we take very seriously our commitment to leave for our future generations a nuclear free Pacific. The objective of this briefing, therefore, is to have a very frank dialogue with the I.A.E.A. regarding the recent decision by our close partner, Japan.”

The Pacific region, he said, is entitled to clear answers, including evidence-based scientific assessments that underpin the decision by the Government of Japan, which the I.A.E.A. has endorsed. 

“This clarity will inform and advance our shared understanding of the full spectrum of impacts of Japan’s decision to discharge a large volume of treated nuclear water into the Pacific Ocean,” said Mr. Puna.

“While we hope to broaden our understanding of the issue at this session, this by no means prevents us from pursuing further collaboration to seek access to other independently verifiable scientific environmental assessment.” 

The Forum’s 50-year history has been “overshadowed by our nuclear legacy issues” he noted. 

“Our 50-year history as the Forum has been overshadowed by our nuclear legacy issues, which continue to impact affected communities today, and we should not accept anything less,” said Mr. Puna. 

“As emphasised by our Leaders in 2019, the threat of nuclear contamination continues to be of significant concern to the health and security of our Blue Pacific Continent.” 

He encouraged member nations to participate in the discussions and hopes for dialogue to foster better understanding of the issues.

“I encourage the active participation of all Members to raise all perspectives and concerns for a constructive and transparent discussion. I am hopeful that this dialogue will foster a better understanding of the issues,” Mr. Puna said.

“Thank you once again to Director General Grossi and the IAEA for their cooperation on this matter, and we look forward to continued cooperation on these issues. With those brief remarks, I wish you all the best in your deliberations and discussions today.” 

M.N.R.E. Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) Frances Brown-Reupena and S.P.R.E.P Director-General Leota Kosi Latu were first contacted for a comment on the decision by Japan in April. 

Contacted again on Friday with the same queries, Ms. Reupena and Mr. Leota did not reply.

*Additional reporting by Marc Membrere

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