08/24/2023, 00.00
Send to a friend

Protests, retaliation and reassurances in response to Fukushima water release.

Beijing announces "total" blockade of seafood, but remains silent on its spills into the sea. Environmentalists and activists on the streets in South Korea and Japan, at least 14 arrests among protesters in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. IAEA reassures on fairness of procedures. South Korean premier calls for "maximum transparency" and data "for the next 30 years."

Tokyo (AsiaNews) - Widespread concern among regional nations and populations; commercial reprisals and warnings from governments which invoke transparency and, albeit with different nuances,  criticize Tokyo's decision on enviornmental grounds and its pandering to its electorate; moderate caution among scientists, who applaud the procedures adopted so far and exclude imminent dangers for health and the environment in the Asia-Pacific region.

There have been many reactions from governments and public opinion to the Japanese government's decision to start releasing cooling water from the Fukushima plant, scene of the atomic accident in March 2011, into the ocean at 1pm (local time).

In the morning they showed concentrations of tritium - the only radioactive element left after treatment - below the standard of 1,500 becquerels per litre, which represents the limit established by the company for the release of water and which should continue for the next 30 years.

Beijing is among those expressing concern and has already issued a "total" ban on the importation of fish products from Japan in a move that threatens to bury the many activities related to catering inspired by Japanese cuisine from Hong Kong to Macao, up to mainland China.

However, it is worth remembering here that the same Chinese nuclear power plants have been releasing radioactive and contaminated water into the seas for some time, without - in this case - any supervision or control by international agencies and the sector as is happening now.

According to some sources, the levels would be up to 6.5 times higher than those in Fukushima, scene of the atomic accident in March 2011. A document published in the past by the Tokyo government, and relaunched by the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, reveals that in 2020 from the Qinshan III nuclear power plant in Zhejiang Province released water containing about 143 trillion becquerels of tritium.

One story among others that shows, according to Tokyo, how the current operation is actually much safer while other governments hide the data or carry out the spill in great secrecy, endangering general health.

If the Chinese front worries (in part) for economic issues, the real interest of the Rising Sun is aimed at Seoul: in fact, in recent years there has been a slow and tiring attempt to mend and strengthen relations (not only economic, but including diplomats and soldiers) after the tragedies and divisions of the past, starting with the legacies of the Second World War.

For this reason, Tokyo has spent time and resources in an attempt to overcome the resistance of the Seoul government and the hostility of a public opinion very worried about the consequences, especially on fishing.

This discontent could weigh on the approval of the executive led by Prime Minister Han Duck-soo who calls for "maximum transparency" and to provide data relating to water contamination "for the next 30 years".

Rafael Mariano Grossi, IAEA director general, underlines that the experts of the international atomic agency are "in the field" to verify with their own eyes - and at the service of the international community - that the procedures are "in line with safety standards". "Through our presence - he adds - we help to generate the necessary trust that the process is carried out in a safe and transparent way".

Despite the IAEA recognition, the South Korean government has nonetheless said it will not approve or support the release of the water while positively evaluating the direct channel with the agency.

Concerns are also expressed by the world of fishing, in particular by the South Korean trade associations, in some cases also by the Japanese and the Philippines who fear involvement. In this regard, the Japan Fisheries Agency will be responsible for monitoring the concentration levels of radioactive materials in fish caught within a 10 km radius of the nuclear power plant, then sharing them on the website.

Scientist Wen-Ti Sung of the Australian National University recalls how in the face of a slowdown in the basic economy (read China) "nationalism is the most convenient tool for rallying society".

"For public health, issues - he continues - such as the invisible and foreign threat of radiation are among the few that cross class, geographical and ethnic lines" by rallying the entire population. Civic groups have launched protests in Japan and South Korea, particularly in Seoul where police arrested 14 protesters who tried to break into the local Japanese embassy.

Also, before the release of the waters, a few dozen protesters gathered in front of the Tepco headquarters in Tokyo with placards reading "Do not throw contaminated water into the sea!". Park Jong-Kwon, a Korean environmentalist interviewed by Reuters, says he is "furious" over a "bewildering" decision.

“I am even more angry – he adds – for our president, Yoon Suk Yeol, who has remained silent on this matter. I live near the sea, so I like fish. However, I will reduce its consumption”. The 73-year-old Hong Kong citizen Jacay Shum also speaks of "irresponsible, illegal and immoral" action because "no one can prove that nuclear waste and materials are safe".

Finally, the inevitably critical and harsh stance taken by North Korea should be noted, which orders the Japanese government to "immediately stop" the release of waste water from Fukushima. In an official note relaunched by the state news agency KCNA, the foreign minister of Pyongyang branded the decision as an "unforgivable crime" committed by Tokyo against humanity and for which it will be "held responsible".

"Japan - concludes the statement - should immediately withdraw the dangerous release of radioactive wastewater that seriously threatens life, safety and the future of humanity".

(Photo taken from the Tepco website)

Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
White House to stop Beijing's "imperialist" policy in the South China Sea
24/01/2017 15:55
Tensions between Seoul and Pyongyang rise as Cold War fears cast a shadow over Korea
12/02/2016 15:14
For Fr Tom, abducted in Yemen, Holy Thursday prayer and adoration for the martyrs
21/03/2016 14:57
"We are optimistic," says Paul Bhatti as Rimsha Masih's bail hearing postponed to Friday
Catholic music to promote dialogue in Ambon, the city of sectarian violence
17/10/2018 13:29


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”