In a move that prioritizes political agendas over scientific evidence and environmental preservation, the G7 nations have given their approval to the Japanese government’s plan to discharge contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean. This contentious decision has drawn fierce opposition from several Asia Pacific countries, spearheaded by the Pacific Island Forum, and has been met with concern from renowned marine research institutions and scientists.
Japan’s government has been eager to secure international support for its decision to release 1.3 million cubic meters/tons of radioactive waste water stored at the Fukushima plant into the ocean this year. Critics argue that this decision fails to protect Japanese citizens, particularly Fukushima’s vulnerable fishing communities, as well as neighboring Asia Pacific nations. In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the detrimental impacts on marine life caused by discharging various radionuclides remain inadequately studied.
Under international law, Japan is required to perform a comprehensive environmental impact assessment, which includes the potential consequences of cross-border marine pollution. However, the Japanese government has not fulfilled this obligation, resulting in a breach of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. As our marine ecosystems face immense threats from climate change, overfishing, and resource extraction, the G7’s endorsement of such plans is deeply concerning.
Shaun Burnie, Senior Nuclear Specialist at Greenpeace East Asia, expressed his disappointment with the G7’s prioritization of political interests over science, environmental conservation, and international law. Greenpeace East Asia has published analyses highlighting the shortcomings of Fukushima Daiichi’s liquid waste processing technology and the environmental dangers posed by these releases. The organization emphasizes that current decommissioning plans are unviable and that nuclear fuel debris in the reactors will persist in contaminating groundwater for decades.
The Japanese government’s efforts to downplay the Fukushima disaster aligns with its broader energy strategy of reintroducing nuclear power into its energy mix. In contrast to the 54 reactors available in 2011, only ten reactors were operational in 2022, contributing 7.9% of Japan’s electricity generation in FY21, down from 29% in 2010. Moreover, five other G7 nations, led by France, the US, and the UK, are actively advocating for nuclear power development.
Shaun Burnie argues that the belief in the nuclear industry’s ability to provide a secure and sustainable energy future is misguided and distracts from the only feasible solution to the climate crisis: 100% renewable energy. While the global expansion of affordable renewable energy has been remarkable, it must accelerate and scale up even further to achieve the necessary reductions in carbon emissions by 2030. Burnie contends that approving nuclear waste disposal and promoting nuclear energy are outdated notions that have no place in our urgent quest to combat climate change in the 21st century.