Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum last week expressed strong concerns over the release of treated radioactive waste water from Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean says Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown.

PM Brown said there were strong concerns raised by Forum leaders for the significance of potential threats of contamination to the health and security of the blue Pacific.

The Forum members have expressed differing views on the treated wastewater discharge from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant which began in August after extensive dialogue between the member states and Japan.

Brown said that the Forum s leaders also recognise the sovereignty of each of their members to determine their own national positions on this critical issue.

Cook Islands has said it believes that the water release meets international safety standards, with other Forum members such as Australia, Fiji and New Zealand respecting the findings of a review conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in July that concluded the discharge plan adhered to global safety standards.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare denounced the discharge during a UN General Assembly session in September.

The Forum communique issued by the leaders in Aitutaki, recalled the strong concerns by Forum Leaders for the significance of the potential threat of nuclear contamination to the health and security of the Blue Pacific as per the 2022 and 2023 Forum Communiques, and noted the extensive Forum dialogue and engagement process taken over the last three years on this matter.

“Leaders recalled the Forum priorities of international consultation, international law, and scientific independent and verifiable assessments, and emphasised the importance of this transgenerational and possible transboundary issue particularly in the context of the region’s nuclear testing legacy, the Rarotonga Treaty, and the 2050 Strategy.

“Leaders recognised the sovereignty of Members to determine their own national positions on the discharge by Japan of over a million tonnes of Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) treated nuclear wastewater into the Pacific Ocean.

“Leaders acknowledged the intensive dialogue with Japan, to date, following the high-level dialogue between the PIF Chair and PIF representatives with Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in February 2023.

“Leaders acknowledged the ongoing dialogue with the IAEA, including the visit by IAEA Director General (DG) Rafael Grossi to the Cook Islands in July 2023.

“Leaders noted the Comprehensive Report on the Safety Review of the ALPS-Treated Water at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (IAEA Report) of 4 July 2023 on the Safety Review of the ALPS-Treated Water at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

“Leaders acknowledged the work of the PIF Experts and their initial advice in response to the IAEA Report.

“Leaders acknowledged the offer by the IAEA to establish an elevated dialogue mechanism with the PIF, and the IAEA’s establishment of a permanent monitoring presence at Fukushima.

“Leaders noted the release of the ALPS treated nuclear wastewater into the Pacific Ocean on 24 August 2023 and continuing over the next 30 years, and recommended and encouraged Japan to:
(a) embed the Fukushima issue as a standing item of the PALM agenda; and
(b)establish political dialogue annually to ascertain safety issues based on international safety standards and ongoing independent monitoring by the IAEA.

“Leaders emphasised the need to build national and regional scientific capacity and monitoring capabilities to assist the health and well-being of the marine ecosystems of the Blue Pacific including to human health within the region,” the Forum communique stated.