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Say NO to discharge of radioactive waste water at Fukushima

Eun J. Kang

July 18, 2023
Recently the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) has approved plans by Japan to release more than 1m tonnes of radioactive contaminated water (enough to fill 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools) from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the ocean over the next 30 or so years, despite fierce objections from local fishing communities and people living in neighboring countries.
However, the IAEA's approval does not mean it is safe. They say that Japan's ocean discharge plan is "in line with international practice," but the standard should be based on what is safe for human health, not what other countries are doing.
In 2012, as a result of the strong earthquakes and subsequent tsunami, 3 reactors in the Fukushima nuclear plant melted down. It is the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986. 
The Japanese government has been storing the radioactive contaminated water, a mixture of coolant from the reactors, rainwater and groundwater in steel storage tanks on site. 
Now it says that they run out of space and other solutions would cost them too much money. However, it is ridiculous for those corporations who have profited from operating these nuclear power plants for decades to shirk their responsibilities to deal with the consequences of the meltdown. They knew about countless warnings of the well-known dangers and costs.
The Japanese government, along with the United States, has decided to double its defense spending by 2027 to keep China in check. However, when it comes to this disaster they say it is not possible to "waste" trillions every year on nuclear waste disposal.
The government and TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) claim that the environmental and health impacts will be negligible because the water is treated, using unproven on-site ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System) technology. Think of the ALPS as a giant water purifier. TEPCO claims that the various filters in the ALPS can remove most of the radioactive material. However, this has never been verified. Contaminated water that passes through the ALPS once still contains large amounts of radioactive material. TEPCO acknowledges this, but claims that multiple passes can reduce the concentration below the 'reference value’.
The Pacific Forum of Island Nations, has assembled an independent panel of scientists to analyze the results of TEPCO’s testing of the contaminated water that flowed through the ALPS. 
They found TEPCO tested only 20+ of 64 radionuclides known to be in the radioactive water. The panel concluded in the report that TEPCO's data was "incomplete, inadequate, and inconsistent”.
In other words, it is likely that large amounts of radionuclides remain in the "treated water" that passed through the ALPS. But TEPCO and the Japanese government have refused to allow independent scientists to verify their claims.
Radiation exposure thresholds are not based on what is "safe" but on what is unavoidable. For example, the exposure threshold for radiation workers is more than 10 times that recommended for the general population, exposing them to dangerous levels to avoid additional safety costs.
The IAEA began to support Japan's discharge of contaminated water around 2020, and the U.S. and South Korean governments have used the IAEA's position to condone and defend the discharge.
The Japanese government seems to believe that now is the right time to dump polluted water into the Pacific as the U.S. strengthens its alliance with South Korea, the U.S., and Japan to contain China. 
The U.S. government began to support the discharge of contaminated water in 2021, while banning imports of seafood from the Fukushima area due to "possible radionuclide contamination”.
In Japan
According to a survey conducted last year by the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency, 51.9 percent of the Japanese public were unsatisfied with the decision.
The fierce resistance of local fishing communities especially forced the local government to reiterate that the planned discharge wouldn’t go ahead without their consent.
Japanese fishermen are not the only ones speaking out. In a video message sent to the Japan-Korea Workers' Congress on July 8, Masako Obata, president of the Japan Confederation of Trade Unions, Shigeo Nogi, president of the Fukushima Prefectural Labor Union, and Hiroshi Watanabe, president of the Japan National Trade Union Liaison Council, criticized the Japanese government, TEPCO, and the IAEA, and called for a "halt to the discharge of contaminated water into the sea and for broader solidarity to strengthen public opinion against the nuclear plant."
In South Korea
The South Korean government has used the IAEA's position to condone and defend the discharge.
The conservative South Korean government and its ruling party are hysterically reacting to the opposition and some leftist groups by saying they are spreading rumors and inciting to harm the national interest. This government is deeply unpopular as it has pushed through anti-workers’ bills and is not dealing with the cost of living crisis.
With over 80% of South Koreans opposed to the discharge, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) recently began organizing demonstrations in opposition along with progressive parties and environmental organizations.
The head of IAEA Rafael Grossi had to duck into an airport cargo lot to avoid angry protesters he encountered during his recent trip to South Korea.
Say No 
It is the ordinary people of South Korea, Japan and the world who are being harmed by the IAEA approval of this reckless decision. TEPCO and the governments of South Korea and Japan are only looking out for their own interests. They are in alignment with the geopolitical interests of the US in containing China. We must oppose the discharge of Fukushima contaminated water and demand that a long term plan be created to safeguard the public inside and outside of Japan against this radioactive waste. Stand in solidarity with the people against the bosses, who value profit over life and safety.

What is the IAEA?

The IAEA was born to control nuclear weapons.
In 1945, the United States dropped nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing 200,000 and 140,000 people, respectively. Seeing the power of nuclear weapons, the rulers of the world began a nuclear race. In 1949, the Soviet Union conducted a successful nuclear test, and in 1952, the United Kingdom followed suit.
Unable to monopolize nuclear weapons, the United States felt the need to control the development of nuclear weapons by other countries. In 1953, U.S. President Eisenhower proposed the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly titled "Atoms for Peace." While the organization was supposed to provide "technical cooperation and monitoring for the peaceful uses of nuclear technology," it was really an attempt to provide nuclear technology to the newly independent nations that had emerged after World War II, swaying them to the U.S. side and keeping the Soviet Union in check.
In reality, the IAEA was a way for the United States to legitimize its own nuclear weapons and the factories that make them, and to monitor and control the nuclear weapons of other countries.
The United States, which has led the IAEA since its inception, will continue to be the largest contributor to the agency's regular budget in 2023 (25 percent). Japan (7.7 percent) is the third largest contributor, after China (14.5 percent).
In 1954, the year after the IAEA was proposed, the United States tested a hydrogen bomb at Bikini Atoll in the central Pacific Ocean, which was 1,000 times more powerful than the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japanese scientist and anti-nuclear activist Sakeru Itouchi points out that after the test caused a large number of casualties and increased anti-nuclear sentiment in Asia, the U.S. rushed to introduce nuclear power plants in Japan to create the perception that "nuclear technology is not dangerous." 
The IAEA was supposed to pressure Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, which the U.S. designated as "rogue states," to submit to nuclear development inspections, but even after Iran and North Korea complied, the U.S. and IAEA repeatedly demonized them with new allegations of possessing nuclear weapons. The IAEA, on the other hand, has not had a problem with Israel, which has the largest nuclear arsenal in the Middle East. The IAEA has also exempted India, which the U.S. allowed to acquire nuclear weapons as a deterrent to China, from inspections.

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