Japan dump plan to hurt Pacific: environmentalist

By Marc Membrere 29 December 2021, 9:38PM

Japan's decision to dump contaminated water from the Fukushima Power Plant will greatly impact the pacific region, environmentalist Tupaemanaia Steve Brown warns. 

Earlier this year, the Government of Japan and the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc (T.E.P.C.O.) had made the decision to discharge 1.28 million tonnes of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean, a process that will take place in two years.

This decision has been opposed by many of the region's organisations calling for an independent review.

In a telephone interview with the Samoa Observer on Tuesday, Tupaemanaia said that we have the sovereign right in every country to do as we please and other countries cannot interfere, however, in the case polluting the Pacific Ocean with radioactive material impinges on Pacific islanders and other neighbouring countries is unacceptable 

"But [...] Australia is no different, Australia is putting more greenhouse gas air pollution into the skies and that's having an impact on the whole world. So we cant be critical of Japan for being the only ones. 

He pointed out that even Samoans are polluting their skies by burning plastic which if a complaint is made, it would take several months to prosecute.

With no response from the Secretariat of the Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P.) and the Government of Samoa on the situation after being contacted about Japan's decisions more than six months ago, Tupaemanaia said that this procrastination and delay is "typical of all of us on these environmental issues" that are preventing countries from attaining sustainable development. 

"What do we do? We go and do another review. We've just had COP26, that's the 26th review of the climate change issue worldwide and it gets worse every year," he said.

However, Tupaemanaia commands Japan to declare a National Climate Emergency.

"So they are only one of seventy countries that have decided to combine their concerns about climate change and air pollution in that regard and they have teamed up with seventy other countries worldwide but no Pacific Island country other than Tokelau have declared a national climate emergency," he said.

"So not even Samoa which is very very sad. It sends a message to Japan that we are not willing to support Japan in the climate situation. How can we voice a concern when Japan then pollutes our ocean with radioactive material? So unless we are going to allow our development partners to cooperate on a responsible, sensible science-based mandate, then we are not going to make any progress."

Asked about an alternative method Japan could have used for the situation, Tupaemanaia had made reference to the export of uranium.

"Australia is probably one of the largest exporters of uranium for making radioactive material by the importing countries overseas. Now in Australia we're perfectly positioned to receive nuclear waste back. 

He explained that Australia knows how to store it out in the middle of the deserts deep down in concrete using the right scientific procedures.

"We've [...] 40 years of discussions and reports on how Australia can effectively be a radioactive waste site, where it can be sequestered away safely and yet we refuse to offer that service to the rest of the world. We're happy to sell our uranium and make money for this generation but the next generations in Japan, across the Pacific and Australia, your children, my children, our grandchildren are going to suffer severely," he said.

"In fact, they are already suffering from the impacts of climate change. We're losing biodiversity [...] but we don't have a team effort, we don't have an international effort."

Tupaemanaia said that he is not a radioactive scientist or expert but he has worked with radioactive materials and explained that they are accumulative.

He explained that the impact on himself and his colleagues and their laboratory, Australia, and the world is an accumulative effect.

"A small amount of radioactive material is too great for us to take that risk," he said.

Tupaemanaia had then made reference to the French nuclear testing which was done in the Pacific where tests were done.

"Enough is enough, when are we going to get the messages. And surely Japan has learned from the mistakes of France," he said.

He explained that there needs to be a better way of getting rid of the contaminated water.

Tupaemanaia had then highlighted some of the impacts that the water from the Fukushima power plant will bring on the Pacific Ocean and its fisheries industry.

"These animals roam the whole Pacific and to be contaminated and caught commercially either within or economic zones or in international waters by any foreign country, the risk of capturing polluted fish, fish that are polluted with radioactive material is very high and we don't need that risk on our food plate," he said.

"So the impact on Pacific fish could be that the rest of the world boycotts any fish caught by Pacific island Pacific ocean commercial fishermen and we could lose our industries overnight."

The Embassy of Japan in Samoa has been contacted for a comment. The Government of Samoa has also been contacted for a comment but no response has been received as of Press Time.


By Marc Membrere 29 December 2021, 9:38PM

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