5 Jun 2021

Forum head calls for answers on Japan's plans to dump nuclear waste

10:50 am on 5 June 2021

The head of the Pacific Islands Forum wants more answers from Japan on its plan to dump wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant in the Pacific.

An aerial photo shows Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima Prefecture on April 7, 2021.

Japan plans to dump more than a million tonnes of contaminated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which was wrecked in an earthquake in 2011. Photo: Koji Ito / The Yomiuri Shimbun via AFP)

Secretary General Henry Puna called for a frank discussion ahead of a meeting with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, after that organisation said Japan's dumping plan was technically feasible.

According to Japan's government, the wastewater to be released from the former plant is to be treated by an Advanced Liquid Processing System, which will remove nuclides from the water. 

Puna has demanded clarity over what impact Japan's plans will have on the Pacific Ocean, with Pacific countries united in their outrage at the plan.

A spokesman for Japan's government said the water will be re-purified and diluted to meet regulatory standards, while the safety of the discharge would be ensured. 

The legacy of nuclear testing hangs over the region, with the associated health and environmental issues caused by United States, British and French testing largely unresolved today.

"The threat of nuclear contamination continues to be of significant concern to the health and security of our Blue Pacific continent," Puna said.

He said the Pacific was entitled to clear answers, including evidence-based scientific assessments, to underpin Japan's plan.

The prime minister of the Cook Islands, Henry Puna.

The prime minister of the Cook Islands, Henry Puna. Photo: RNZ / Jamie Tahana

"Our 50-year history as the Forum has been overshadowed by our nuclear legacy issues, which continue to impact affected communities today, and we should not accept anything less," Puna said.

Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga has said dumping the water is unavoidable.