Japan’s decision to go forward with the release of the treated radioactively contaminated water is “not surprising, but certainly disappointing,” a marine expert has said.

Despite public concerns and raging opposition from both home and abroad, the Japanese government announced Tuesday it has decided to start releasing nuclear-contaminated wastewater from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the ocean on 24 August.
This decision violates the spirit of the UN Ocean Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) and the recently passed UN High Seas Treaty as well as the rights of indigenous Pacific communities, said Professor Robert Richmond, director of the Kewalo Marine Laboratory at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Both Japan and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) can turn a challenging situation into an opportunity to explore and develop better approaches to nuclear disasters than ocean dumping, said Richmond, also a member of the Expert Scientific Advisory Panel to the Pacific Islands Forum.

“Considering the documented deteriorating conditions of ocean health and that of those communities who depend on it, we should expect far better from those in positions of authority and responsibility,” he said.

“This is not the first such disaster nor will it be the last,” Richmond said, adding this decision undercuts the premise that the nuclear power industry is viable and responsible in its ability to deal with its own mistakes and wastes.

“As the saying goes, those who do not learn from history are forced to repeat it, and this action will be to the detriment of future generations who will likely suffer the consequences of decisions that are made based on expediency, politics, and profit above people,” he said.

Japan has treated the water to the point where officials say it is no longer harmful, and has decided to start releasing it into the Pacific Ocean.

The presence of cancer-causing nuclear fission isotopes cesium-137, strontium-90, and iodine-131 should be checked before the initial batch of water is released, said David Krofcheck, senior lecturer in physics, University of Auckland.

These isotopes, deposited into the Fukushima waters during and shortly after the 2011 disaster, are responsible for the radioactivity in seafood, and the subsequent fishing bans, Krofcheck said.

Hit by a massive earthquake and an ensuing tsunami in March 2011, the Fukushima nuclear power plant suffered core meltdowns and generated a massive amount of water tainted with radioactive substances from cooling down the nuclear fuel.