On the day that Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi visited a farm in Fukushima, activists in South Korea demanded Japan reverse its recent decision to release radioactive water from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea.
Currently in Japan to attend a regional summit, Nobel Prize winner Suu Kyi, who has been widely criticised for turning a blind eye to the Rohingya persecution crisis, visited an organic farm in Izumizaki, which is located about 60 km from the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant that experienced explosions and multiple reactor meltdowns in March 2011.
The plant, which is currently undergoing 40-year decommissioning operations, is storing 940,000 tons of contaminated water onsite while it is treated and stripped of dangerous radioactive substances leaked from the damaged reactors.
With storage space running out, Japan’s government and plant operator TEPCO recently announced a plan to release contaminated water that had been stripped of 62 contaminants, except for tritium, which experts say is not a health threat at low dosage levels.
However, it was recently revealed that the treatment of around 80 percent of the water had been unsuccessful, leaving dangerously high levels of caesium and other contaminants in a large volume of the water.
Korea Radioactive Watch and the Korean Federation For Environmental Movement were among the groups that held a joint news conference in Seoul on Monday urging the Japanese government and TEPCO to reconsider the release. To go ahead with the discharge is ”unacceptable" they say.
"A release of Fukushima's radioactive, contaminated water will threaten the safety of the waters of South Korea and other neighboring nations that share the Pacific Ocean, as well as the waters in the vicinity of Fukushima," the activist groups said.
The groups added that “the Japanese government should disclose all information related to Fukushima's radioactive water and listen to the opinions of its neighboring countries about how to dispose of the contaminated water.”
The South Korean government should sternly protest to Japan and “take aggressive countermeasures” they said.
South Korea is among a number of countries that still vetoes the import of certain goods from Japan, particularly those that have been grown and harvested in and around Fukushima and the surrounding region.
Taiwan also has banned food and agricultural imports from Fukushima and nearby areas in Japan since the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster, although a recent referendum proposal seeks a debate on whether or not the government should halt that ban.
Meanwhile in the New Straits Times there is a remarkable op-ed piece by a little known scientist that will no doubt fuel discussions on both sides of the nuclear power fence. There is little information available about author Mohd Syukri Yahya other than he teaches an introductory course in nuclear tech at the national technology university in Malaysia, which proudly boasts being 801st (out of 1,000) universities in the world. Remarkably, the researcher had ANOTHER similar piece published in another Malaysia publication, the Star just a day earlier titled "Nuclear option should stay."
In this article he states that 436 nuclear power reactors are still in operation in 31 countries and 55 new reactors are currently under construction.
"Even Japan, which closed down or suspended the operations of all of its nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster, has restarted a few plants to meet domestic electricity demands," he says before adding that Germany, which has decided .to shut down all of its nuclear power stations, "now imports electricity from (ironically) nuclear-powered France while sweating over a creeping increment of carbon index due to higher reliance on fossil fuels."
In the latest index, Germany ranks 40th and "low" in the global table of greenhouse gas emitters and "high" (and ranked 15th) in its growth of renewable energies.
Sources: Yonhap News; Taipei Times; Kyodo
Despite assurances to the contrary by Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant operator TEPCO and the Japanese government, it has been announced that radioactive water stored at the plant is up to 20,000 times the limit considered safe for release into the ocean.
TEPCO announced Friday that studies had found the water still contains harmful radionuclides such as radioactive iodine, cesium and strontium. Previously the utility had stated that the water had been stripped of all elements except tritium, which is claimed to be relatively “harmless” in small doses.
Now it has been confirmed that in fact more than 80 percent of the 940,000 tons of water being stored within the grounds of the plant has radioactive levels that exceed acceptable safe limits for release into the Pacific — a move that had previously been approved by the government, despite protests from local fishermen.
That amounts to around 752,000 tons, of which more than 160,000 tons has up to 100 times the limit for release into the environment, according to TEPCO. A further 65,000 tons contains levels of 600,000 becquerels of radioactive contamination -- or nearly 20,000 times the officially accepted safe limit, the utility added.
The utility claimed that the issue was a result of complications in 2013 with the ALPS cleaning system being employed to strip the highly contaminated water of more than 60 harmful radionuclides -- excluding tritium, which cannot be removed.
In order assuage the concerns of an increasingly sceptical public, TEPCO has vowed to ensure the water is treated further to attain safe levels for release into the environment.
Meanwhile, it was also confirmed that the removal of 566 spent fuel assemblies stored in the plant's reactor 3 - one of three reactors to experience meltdowns and explosions in March 2011 -- will be delayed until after the new year. The removal was originally slated to commence this November but machinery required for the delicate operations was shown to be malfunctioning, making the scheduled removal impossible.
Sources: NHK, Asahi Shimbun, Nikkei