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South Korea Raises Fukushima Water Release Concerns To London Convention

TOKYO, Japan

The fishing industry of South Korea has& brought its concerns over the release of the contaminated water at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea to the London Convention and Protocol meeting. The London Convention, to which 87 States are Parties, monitors pollution of the seas and oceans and covers the deliberate disposal of wastes and other matter into the world's waters. South Korea has said that the release of the Fukushima water into the ocean would have a direct influence on the marine life and ecosystem in its territorial waters and eventually the people in Korea.

"We emphasized that Japan should take a different approach on handling the water compared to other normal situations considering the gravity of the Fukushima disaster," an official from the fishing ministry said 14 October, claiming the water should not be released to the ocean without discussions. (The Korea Herald)

Japan contends that raising the issue was not appropriate as no final decision as to the disposition of the water has been made.

As of 22 August, approximately 1.1 million tons of contaminated water was being stored in 977 tanks at the decommissioned power plant in Fukushima, which was destroyed by the 2011 earthquake and ensuing tsunami. More storage facilities will be built but only through 2020, bringing the total stored volume to 1.37 million tons. After that, there will be no more storage space.

A 5 September briefing for embassy officials in Tokyo followed an August meeting of a government panel of experts looking into ways to solve the water problem and a final government decision will be made based on a report by the panel, diplomats were told, but timing of the decision has not been fixed. (OOSKAnews)

The briefing for diplomats was attended by 27 embassy officials from 22 countries and regions, including South Korea and the United States.

“With transparency in mind, Japan will continue providing the international community with information (on the Fukushima situation),” Koichiro Matsumoto, the Foreign Ministry’s director of international cooperation, told diplomats.

However, also last month, Yoshiaki Harada, Japan’s environment minister, commenting on the lack of storage capacity for contaminated Fukushima water, said "The only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it".

Japan is eager to get countries to lift restrictions on food imports from the Fukushima area ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics; restrictions on imports remain in place in 22 countries and regions, including South Korea and China.

Aside from the environmental stance, it has been suggested that South Korea is trying to make additional points; specifically to retaliate for Japan’s recent economic measures against South Korea, and perhaps to embarrass the Japanese government in advance of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

South Korea's science ministry also raised the issue at the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency last month. At the gathering, Japan claimed that Seoul's concerns were not based on scientific evidence.

"There is another option to deal with radioactive water. Japan can keep it in the tanks until the radiation level becomes low enough. But this takes time and money. It will take about 300 years until it is okay to discharge the water," said Kim Ik-jung, a former medical professor and member of the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission to the (Korea Times).

It seems likely that South Korea will continue to raise the wastewater issue to the international community until Japan comes up with a safe and acceptable solution.