Japanese ocean release needs review: environmentalist

The Samoa Conservation Society President has expressed concerned about Japan's decision to release 1 million tonnes of contaminated water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific and called for an independent assessment.

S.C.S President James Atherton told the Samoa Observer in a telephone interview on Friday that the decision itself sounds terrible until people start doing a little more research on the issue.

"Of course we have concerns but the way it is been described and reports that are written, much of the contaminated radioactivity is going to be removed from the water before it is discharged," Mr. Atherton said.

According to him, there are a couple of things that people need to bear in mind, saying that it seems like it is a common practice in the nuclear energy sector.

"First of all it seems that this is common practice in the industry, in the nuclear reactor industry in fact it may not be the worst case but that does not make it right of course," he said.

He explained that his main point is that there should be an independent assessment of this before it happens and he agreed with the appeal by the Pacific Islands Forum for the plan to be deferred.

Mr. Atherton said just by reading articles on the position of Japan's government, their argument is that it is common practice and all radioactivity except tritium will be removed, which according to him would have a relatively low radiation impact.

He added that the way they are arguing is that the water that they are going to release is going to be diluted so much that it is not going to be an issue.

"Now bearing in mind that the first country that's going to get impacted by any issue with radioactive waste is Japan themselves so it would not be in their interest to do something that is going to screw up their own country and their fishing industry and so forth so you got to bear that in mind," he said.

Mr. Atherton added that hopes that the Japanese would be concerned about their own people and would want to do the right thing, saying the public should be careful not to get too emotional about what appears to be a disastrous decision.

"We need to understand a bit more about what are the true impacts, further emphasising the need for an independent assessment by a neutral group.

"It's two years for that to happen. In that time maybe there will be improvements in how we maybe make that water completely safe in that timeframe hopefully.

"There's still time to improve the science on this, the technology on this."

Mr. Atherton is of the view that there has been an overreaction in certain quarters without necessarily understanding more about it.

He said the Government of Samoa should be concerned and asking for an independent study while emphasising that experts opinions are needed on this issue.

"If the Japanese are confident at what they are doing is going to have minimal impact then they should be happy to have an independent assessment done," he said.

"If they are not happy with that then there may be a sign that they are hiding something."

Japan shouldn't be condemned as other countries have done similar activities and he then made reference to the testing by the French, British and the Americans which was worse than the current situation.

Mr. Atherton said the S.C.S and environmentalists are concerned but they want to see more information and want to see an independent assessment done before they draw their own conclusions.

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