The Fukushima Daiichi plant was hit by a massive tsunami and earthquake in 2011. (Photo: AFP)
Catholic bishops in South Korea and Japan have issued a joint statement to strongly oppose the Japanese government’s decision to discharge radioactive water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea.
Following years of debate over the disposal of the liquid which includes water used to cool the Fukushima Daiichi plant that was hit by a massive tsunami and earthquake in 2011, Japanese authorities have decided to release a million tonnes of treated water into the sea.
The initial plan was to start releasing the water from 2022 but a final decision has not been made, according to Japanese media.
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 will fill up by 2022, the BBC reported.
Scientists, environmentalists and fishing groups have opposed the idea of releasing contaminated water into the sea, citing possible risks.
“We oppose the discharge of tritium-containing water, a radioactive material that has been purified and treated, into the ocean,” said a joint statement from the Justice and Peace Commissions of the bishops’ conferences of Korea and Japan, the Korean bishops’ ecological and environmental committee and the Japanese bishops’ subcommittee on nuclear for peace.
The statement has been signed by heads of each organization and concerns have been raised about the direct impact of the contaminated water on public health and marine life.
“The water contains tritium, which is a radioactive material, purified through the contaminated water treatment system of the Fukushima plant. Secondary treatment of radionuclides remaining in the treated water is still in the testing stage, and no definite results have been obtained,” the statement said.
The statement also pointed out that the report from the Japanese government did not mention the effects of the treated water on marine life, the marine environment and human health.
“Once released into the sea, radioactive material cannot be restored to its original state. It will have impacts on humans and nature. It will cause greater anxiety and damage to people around the world.”
In a separate statement, the Korean bishops' ecological and environmental committee expressed concerns about the recent tritium leak at the Wolseong nuclear power plant in Gyeongju in South Korea.
On Jan. 7, Korean media reported on radioactivity leaking from the plant, prompting Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Company to investigate. The initial results exposed a wide range of radioactive contamination in the plant and adjacent areas
The Korean Church demanded the government "conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the leakage and immediate follow-up measures for radioactive leaks in all nuclear power plants."