Saipan, 14 February 2022 (TDI): The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands says there is a viable alternative to Japan’s plan to dump over 1 million tons of treated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean, and it needs to be considered immediately.

The wastewater is the byproduct of the efforts to cool the Fukushima nuclear reactors, which were severely damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The Northern Mariana Islands are United States’ territory with a population of about 51,659 people.

It is comprised of the abuttal of 2,500km (1,553 miles) towards the southeast of Japan. The leaders of the islands have declared the treated water release plan of Japan unacceptable, which was officially announced, last year.

According to Sheila Jack Babauta, the efforts that went into the joint resolution exposed the research and reports from Greenpeace East Asia showcasing the alternative solutions for the storage of Japan’s nuclear waste, including the only acceptable option of long-term storage and processing using the finest technology available.

Japan aims to dispose of all treated wastewater over a period of around 30 years. Anxiety is prevailing at a high level among Japanese fishermen and coastal residents in the area.

And its plan has been greeted with outspoken criticism from neighboring nations including China, South Korea, and Taiwan, as well as Pacific Island countries and the Pacific Islands Forum, the region’s intergovernmental organization.

This water flows in the already nuclear waste-contaminated ocean and jeopardizes the lives and livelihoods of islanders who rely significantly on marine resources. These include both inshore and pelagic fisheries, such as tuna.

The former offers daily nutrition and food security, while the latter generates much-needed foreign cash via fishing licenses for far water fishing country fleets.

The use of the Pacific Islands for nuclear weapons testing by the United States, United Kingdom, and France from the 1940s until the late twentieth century has fueled strong hostility among islanders to any nuclear-related activity in the region.

Radioactive pollution from over 300 atmospheric and undersea nuclear tests left several sites uninhabitable, particularly in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and French Polynesia, and caused permanent long-term health problems in impacted people.

The Chair of Pacific Islands Forum Ambassadors at the United Nations namely Satyendra Prasad made aware the world in September of the last year that “ongoing struggle with the legacy of nuclear testing, from transboundary contamination of homes and habitats to higher numbers of birth defects and cancers.”

The South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty was established in 1985 by regional leaders, precluding the member states, including Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Island nations, from testing and using nuclear explosive devices, as well as dumping radioactive wastes into the sea.

According to the Coordinator of the Pacific Network on Globalization, Maureen Penjueli, the Pacific Ocean has become a testing site, a theatre of war, and a highway for nuclear submarines and garbage for us in the Pacific. Whereas the Pacific is not a disposal for radioactive waste water.

Space Scarcity

When the earthquake and tsunami slammed the Fukushima nuclear power plant, three nuclear reactors melted down. Pumping cooling water through the damaged infrastructure to prevent overheating is part of the process of decommissioning the disaster-hit site, which may take up to four decades.

Every day, around 170 cubic meters of processed wastewater accumulates and presently fills at least 1,000 tanks around the facility. Therefore, the Japanese government will release the water since there isn’t enough space to keep it all.

According to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), France, Germany, and the Republic of Korea visited Japan in the November of the last year to gather the samples such as fish. These samples were taken to execute a profound investigation to accumulate the fact base findings.

The monitoring of the marine region will be intensified from one year before the discharge, which is scheduled to begin in spring 2022 under the existing plan. According to by laws, prior to discharge into the sea, the quantity of the nuclides i.e. tritium and carbon-14 will be monitored, and the results will be made public.