08/26/2023, 10.00
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Japanese bishops protest release of Fukushima water

The Justice and Peace Commission reiterates its condemnation of the Kishida government's choice. While TEPCO "reassures" on the absence of significant amounts of tritium in the first seawater samples tested, the prelates of Naha and Sendai retort that "it is not only the concentration that is the relevant parameter: no one knows how much water will be discharged as debris removal is still far away. The objections of local residents and other people at home and abroad should be listened to with humility."

Tokyo (AsiaNews) -  In a recently released statement by the Justice and Peace Commission of the Bishops' Conference, the Japanese Catholic Church has reiterated its opposition to the decision by the Kishida government to discharge into the ocean the water used to cool the core of the Tokyo nuclear power plant Fukushima went out of control after the 2011 accident.

The operation, announced some time ago, began on Wednesday 24 August and, despite the reassurances of the Tokyo government - strengthened by the endorsement of the International Atomic Agency (IAEA) - it is sparking strong protests in large regions of Asia-Pacific.

Yesterday TEPCO - the company that manages the plant - announced the first data on water samples taken in 10 different locations at a distance of 3 kilometers from the Fukushima plant, from which there would not be significant quantities of tritium, the non-eliminable radionuclide not even after the treatment to which the plant's cooling waters have been subjected.

TEPCO will make these results public every day for approximately one month. Other data relating to similar findings will be released by the Tokyo Ministry of the Environment every week for about three months, while for this afternoon they are those of a research institute commissioned by the Fisheries Agency.

But precisely these reassurances are strongly contested by some voices of Japanese civil society, including the Catholic Church which had already spoken out on the matter two years ago, with a joint document signed together with the bishops of South Korea.

The note from the Commission for Justice and pace bears the signature of its managers, the president, Msgr. Wayne Francis Berndt, bishop of Naha, and the secretary Msgr. Edgar Gacutan, bishop of Sendai. Quoting the words of a biblical passage of the prophet Ezekiel ("Son of man, intones a lament about Tyre, the city situated at the entrance of the sea, which trades with peoples and with many islands" Ez. 27,2-3) the bishops express their "firm protest" against the decision to release "the so-called treated water".

"The government should humbly listen to the protests of local residents, fishermen, East Asian, Pacific Islanders and other people at home and abroad," they write, also going into detail on the issues raised. The government says tritium, a radionuclide contained in treated water at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, exists in nature and is emitted from all operating nuclear power plants, not just the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Daiichi. However, it has been emphasized that tritium entering the body of living organisms is absorbed by cells for a long time. It accumulates and concentrates in the food chain. Therefore, tritium should no longer be released into the ocean for any reason."

Furthermore, the bishops underline the specificity of these waters compared to those of other plants, because in Fukushima they "came into direct contact with the debris of molten fuel" due to the accident.

As for the thesis also supported by the IAEA, according to which the residual radioactive materials in the treated waters of the TEPCO plant are sufficiently diluted, the Justice and Peace Commission replies that "it is not only the concentration that counts. It's about how long water will be released into the ocean, how much radioactive material will eventually be released, and how much it will pollute."

Furthermore - they recall - "the amount of contaminated water in Fukushima continues to increase: cooling water is needed, unless the removal of fuel debris is completed, an operation whose work is significantly delayed and also the construction method it has not been finalized yet. We have not even been able to stop the inflow of groundwater and rainwater, which are the main causes of water contamination”.

“All environmental destruction is a problem that derives from our negligence in believing that a certain amount is tolerable - concluded mgr. Berndt and Msgr. Gacutan -. Our determination never to allow this outrageous act is a matter of ethics and responsibility towards the earth of tomorrow and the children of the future. The Catholic Church believes that this world was created by God to be extraordinarily good. Everything God created is connected and needs each other. As custodians of this connection, we, the Catholic Council of Japan for Justice and Peace, strongly protest the government's release of treated water into the ocean."

(Photo taken from Tepco website)

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