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Korean Church renews opposition to discharge from Fukushima plant

A report released in April found radioactive contamination in foodstuffs, marine, agriculture and livestock products

The contaminated water from the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant is stored in large tanks

The contaminated water from the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant is stored in large tanks. (Photo: AFP)

Published: June 29, 2023 12:48 PM GMT

Updated: June 30, 2023 03:43 AM GMT

Catholic groups in South Korea have reiterated their strong opposition to the Japanese government’s decision to discharge contaminated water from the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea.

Catholic bishops’ Ecological Environment Committee, Justice and Peace Committee and 42 diocesan organizations from across the country issued a joint statement to raise their voice against dumping of the radioactive water in the ocean, Catholic Peace Broadcasting Corporation (CPBC) reported June 28.

In the statement issued on June 26, the church groups said that they are extremely concerned as the dumping plan is “just around the corner” despite stiff opposition from many quarters including environmentalists, scientists, fishing communities, and church groups.

The statement warned that "the most serious radioactive leakage accident in human history is currently underway."

The groups also dismissed the Japanese government’s continuous claim that “the contamination caused by the radioactive leak is calming down and that the Fukushima area is safe.”

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was badly damaged by a massive tsunami and earthquake in 2011.

The authorities used millions of tons of water to cool down the plant amid a feared nuclear discharge that was eventually averted.

Following years of debate over the disposal, the Japanese government decided to release the treated water into the sea.

The initial plan was to start releasing the water in 2022 but a final decision is pending.

Most of the radioactive isotopes have been removed using a complex filtration process. But one isotope, tritium, cannot be removed, so water has been stored in huge tanks that were expected to be filled up by 2022, the BBC reported.

Korean Catholic groups also regretted that the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) which managed the plant, did not properly disclose detail of emissions since the disaster.

They cited a report titled the “Analysis Report on Radioactive Contamination of Japanese Agricultural and Livestock Products” released by the Citizens' Radiation Monitoring Center and the Korea Federation for Environmental Movements in April this year.

The report found a wide range of radioactive contamination in foodstuffs, including 5.3% of marine products, 21.1% of agricultural products, and 2.6% of livestock products.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) examined contaminated water and warned about risks that still exist, CBPC reported.

The agency says the authorities would dump contaminated water through the multi-nuclide removal facility, ALPS, but only nine types of radioactive isotopes would be inspected due to technical and cost problems.

Korean church groups said they are concerned that “the dumping of radioactively contaminated water from Fukushima could not shake the anxiety that it might cause widespread radioactive contamination in the Pacific Ocean, including our sea.”

The groups suggest that radioactively contaminated water from Fukushima could be stored for a long period of time by using a large-capacity storage tank.

The Ecological Environment Committee urged that contaminated water be stored on land rather than dumped into the sea and look for possible conversion to eco-friendly renewable energy.

It also called on the Japanese government to maintain transparency by disclosing all data related to the Fukushima plant.  

In 2021, Korean and Japanese bishops issued a joint statement to voice their opposition to the release of Fukushima plant water into the sea.

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