|Activists in Seoul protest in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, Aug. 16, condemning the Japanese government for pushing ahead with promoting the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics while not clearly addressing the growing concerns over its possible plan to discharge contaminated water from Fukushima's tsunami-devastated nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean. Korea Times photo by Suh Jae-hoon|
By Jung Da-min
Less than a year ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics scheduled to open July 24 next year, the Japanese government is faced with the challenge of dealing with growing concerns ― raised by international bodies and neighboring countries ― over contaminated water from Fukushima's disabled nuclear power plant. Fukushima Prefecture has been contaminated from the 2011 nuclear disaster.
A recent announcement by the Fukushima nuclear plant utility operator Tokyo Electric Power that it would run out of space to store radioactive water with the current tanks expected to be full by the summer of 2022, has reignited public concerns. Greenpeace claimed that Tokyo is considering discharging 1.15 million tons of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean.
Appearing at the foreign ministry headquarters on Monday, Tomofumi Nishinaga, a minister for economic affairs from the Japanese Embassy in Seoul told South Korean officials that such claims were different from his government's official position. But concerns linger over Japan's handling of the matter.
The Japanese government is being urged to give its official statement on the issue in the near future. Tokyo has been promoting next year's Olympics as the "recovery Olympics" to convince the international community that Japan has fully overcome the impact of the 2011 disaster of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown.
Environmental activists have pointed out that radioactive contamination has still remained in the area as the Japanese government's decontamination process was not about permanently getting rid of the pollutants but rather about moving the radioactive pollutants elsewhere.
For example, putting contaminated soil or debris into black plastic bags eventually meant scattering the pollutants back into the environment, because the vinyl bags have started to collapse with the gas of the rotten soil building up while plants also have grown inside the bags, tearing them open. This was mentioned in a March report by Maxime Polleri, a MacArthur Nuclear Security Pre-doctoral Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation in Stanford University.
Polleri also said the atmospheric level of radiation in Fukushima prefecture stated in official documents by the Japanese government's Reconstruction Agency was listed at about the same level as other major overseas cities like New York or Shanghai, but these figures of state-sponsored monitoring were highly misguided.
"The levels of radioactivity in places like New York are mostly the result of background radiation, which is naturally occurring radiation from the soil or sun. These are rays that pass through the body and leave. Fukushima, on the other hand, is dealing with the release of radionuclides, which are fission products from nuclear power plants. These radionuclides are not rays, but dust-like particles that can stick to the body and be inhaled or ingested," he said.
Activists have called on the Japanese government to acknowledge the situation and make transparent announcements dealing with the matter, which would otherwise only lead to increased public fear.