Experts at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have urged the Government of Japan to delay any decision regarding the release of radioactive water from the stricken Fukushima nuclear facility until after the COVID-19 crisis has passed and full consultations with affected communities and neighbouring countries can be completed.
"We are deeply concerned by reports that the Government of Japan has accelerated its timeline for the release of radioactive wastewater into the ocean without time or opportunity for meaningful consultations," the "Special Rapporteurs" said in a 9 June press release.
Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.
Concern has raised as public consultations on the release of the plant's wastewater have been accelerated, and opinions will be solicited by June 15. The consultations were initially scheduled to take place after the now-postponed Olympic games.
The experts suggest that the postponement of the games has contributed to the government’s decision to accelerate its decision-making process with respect to the release of the contaminated water. The water is currently being stored in tanks on the Fukushima site but space is expected to run out by summer 2022, with insufficient room on-site to construct additional storage tanks.
The experts, UN special rapporteurs respectively on hazardous wastes, rights to food, rights to assembly and association, and rights of indigenous people, assert that the government's short extension for the current public consultation was grossly insufficient. With COVID-19 measures preventing in-depth consultations with relevant stakeholders, the rapporteurs called on the Japanese government to give “proper space and opportunity for consultations on the disposal of nuclear waste that will likely affect people and peoples both inside and outside of Japan.”
As reported by OOSKAnews, release of the water into the ocean has the support of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and in February, an expert panel recommended the ocean release. Local fishermen are objecting, fearing the possibility of a consumer ban on locally caught seafood. In addition, South Korea remains concerned about the overall environmental impact of any release. There is already a ban on the importation of Japanese seafood.
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