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Korea struggles to stop Japan's release of radioactive water

Members of a student group hold a rally in front of the former site of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, Tuesday, protesting Japan's plan to release radioactive water from its destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea. / Yonhap
Members of a student group hold a rally in front of the former site of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, Tuesday, protesting Japan's plan to release radioactive water from its destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea. / Yonhap

Jeju governor vows to take legal action against Japanese government

By Kang Seung-woo

With Japan about to decide on whether to release radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea, Korea is seeking measures to stop the marine environment-threatening plan.

However, the government is struggling to find practical and realistic ways to prevent the discharge, with the international community paying little attention to the issue.

According to recent reports from Japanese media outlets, Tokyo is expected to make an official decision next week on its plan to dump more than 1 million tons of highly contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean after reducing its level of radioactivity. The water was contaminated after the nuclear plant was devastated by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011. If the government approves the plan, the release of the water is likely to begin in October 2022.

In the wake of the news, Seoul is preparing pan-governmental countermeasures, led by the Office for Government Policy Coordination.

Earlier this month, the foreign ministry said the government will continue to pay keen attention to Japan's activities related to the disposal of the contaminated water and will seek to craft measures in cooperation with the international community. The Korean government had earlier sent letters to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to express concerns over the environmental impact of the radioactive water release.

Despite the plan to handle the issue with the support of the international community, there are few countries that have expressed such deep concerns over the disposal of contaminated water other than Korea and a small number of Pacific Island nations.

It is also true that, although the radioactive levels from Fukushima are said to be much higher than those from other normally operating nuclear power plants, Korea and other countries which operate such plants discharge the liquid into the ocean after a filtration process to reduce radioactivity.

In addition, the IAEA has also endorsed Tokyo's plan to discard the treated water, giving far less space for Korea to protest.

In its April review, the IAEA said Japan's two proposed options for the treated water disposal were "both technically feasible."

"They are also routinely used by operating nuclear power plants worldwide under specific regulatory authorizations based on safety and environmental impact assessments. The IAEA experts said the subcommittee's recommendations to the Japanese government were based on a comprehensive and scientifically sound analysis addressing the necessary technical, non-technical and safety aspects," it said.

In that respect, the government has been shifting its focus toward urging Japan to get rid of the radioactive water in a transparent and safe way in line with the international community's standards.

On Sunday, representatives of Cheong Wa Dae, the ruling Democratic Party of Korea and the government held a closed-door meeting and agreed that the water dumping should comply with international standards, and IAEA experts should verify the whole process. The conclusion reached at the meeting will be delivered to the Japanese government.

Relevant government ministries are also considering toughening inspections of Japanese seafood.

Jeju Gov. Won Hee-ryong speaks during a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul, Tuesday, urging Japan not to release contaminated water from its devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean. / Yonhap
Jeju Gov. Won Hee-ryong speaks during a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul, Tuesday, urging Japan not to release contaminated water from its devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean. / Yonhap
Meanwhile, Jeju Gov. Won Hee-ryong said, Tuesday, the provincial government will take domestic and international legal action against Japan should it dump the contaminated water into the ocean. The southern resort island could be geographically the first direct victim of the water discharge outside of Japan.

"The Japanese government should scrap its plan to release radioactive water right now. Furthermore, it needs to share information on the contaminated water transparently and consult with neighboring countries on how to handle it safely," Won said in a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul.

"If the Japanese government rejects the call, Jeju Island plans to form an alliance with every country that will be affected by the envisaged water release and take all possible measures to counter the move."

The governor also said, "Given that Japanese people oppose the water release, I will form a plaintiff group representing residents in coastal areas of Korea and Japan and file civil and criminal suits in both countries, while taking the case to an international tribunal."


Members of a student group hold a rally in front of the former site of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, Tuesday, protesting Japan's plan to release radioactive water from its destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea. / Yonhap
Members of a student group hold a rally in front of the former site of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, Tuesday, protesting Japan's plan to release radioactive water from its destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea. / Yonhap

Jeju governor vows to take legal action against Japanese government

By Kang Seung-woo

With Japan about to decide on whether to release radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea, Korea is seeking measures to stop the marine environment-threatening plan.

However, the government is struggling to find practical and realistic ways to prevent the discharge, with the international community paying little attention to the issue.

According to recent reports from Japanese media outlets, Tokyo is expected to make an official decision next week on its plan to dump more than 1 million tons of highly contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean after reducing its level of radioactivity. The water was contaminated after the nuclear plant was devastated by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011. If the government approves the plan, the release of the water is likely to begin in October 2022.

In the wake of the news, Seoul is preparing pan-governmental countermeasures, led by the Office for Government Policy Coordination.

Earlier this month, the foreign ministry said the government will continue to pay keen attention to Japan's activities related to the disposal of the contaminated water and will seek to craft measures in cooperation with the international community. The Korean government had earlier sent letters to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to express concerns over the environmental impact of the radioactive water release.

Despite the plan to handle the issue with the support of the international community, there are few countries that have expressed such deep concerns over the disposal of contaminated water other than Korea and a small number of Pacific Island nations.

It is also true that, although the radioactive levels from Fukushima are said to be much higher than those from other normally operating nuclear power plants, Korea and other countries which operate such plants discharge the liquid into the ocean after a filtration process to reduce radioactivity.

In addition, the IAEA has also endorsed Tokyo's plan to discard the treated water, giving far less space for Korea to protest.

In its April review, the IAEA said Japan's two proposed options for the treated water disposal were "both technically feasible."

"They are also routinely used by operating nuclear power plants worldwide under specific regulatory authorizations based on safety and environmental impact assessments. The IAEA experts said the subcommittee's recommendations to the Japanese government were based on a comprehensive and scientifically sound analysis addressing the necessary technical, non-technical and safety aspects," it said.

In that respect, the government has been shifting its focus toward urging Japan to get rid of the radioactive water in a transparent and safe way in line with the international community's standards.

On Sunday, representatives of Cheong Wa Dae, the ruling Democratic Party of Korea and the government held a closed-door meeting and agreed that the water dumping should comply with international standards, and IAEA experts should verify the whole process. The conclusion reached at the meeting will be delivered to the Japanese government.

Relevant government ministries are also considering toughening inspections of Japanese seafood.

Jeju Gov. Won Hee-ryong speaks during a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul, Tuesday, urging Japan not to release contaminated water from its devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean. / Yonhap
Jeju Gov. Won Hee-ryong speaks during a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul, Tuesday, urging Japan not to release contaminated water from its devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean. / Yonhap
Meanwhile, Jeju Gov. Won Hee-ryong said, Tuesday, the provincial government will take domestic and international legal action against Japan should it dump the contaminated water into the ocean. The southern resort island could be geographically the first direct victim of the water discharge outside of Japan.

"The Japanese government should scrap its plan to release radioactive water right now. Furthermore, it needs to share information on the contaminated water transparently and consult with neighboring countries on how to handle it safely," Won said in a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul.

"If the Japanese government rejects the call, Jeju Island plans to form an alliance with every country that will be affected by the envisaged water release and take all possible measures to counter the move."

The governor also said, "Given that Japanese people oppose the water release, I will form a plaintiff group representing residents in coastal areas of Korea and Japan and file civil and criminal suits in both countries, while taking the case to an international tribunal."


Kang Seung-woo ksw@koreatimes.co.kr

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