Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Storage tanks for contaminated water stand at the Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Feb. 3, 2020 in Okuma, Japan. (Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images)

Storage tanks for contaminated water stand at the Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Feb. 3, 2020 in Okuma, Japan. (Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images)

'An Appalling Environmental Crime': Japan to Dump Radioactive Fukushima Water Into Pacific Ocean

"The moment that I hear the word 'treated' being used instead of 'contaminated,' I can't think differently than this is a kind of newspeak," said one Greenpeace official.

Kenny Stancil

Nearly a decade after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, Japanese media reported Friday that the government has decided to release more than one million tonnes of treated radioactive water currently being stored at the nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean, despite fierce opposition from fishermen and environmental advocates.  

Nuclear energy policy expert Paul Dorfman called the Japanese government's plan "an appalling environmental crime."

While a formal announcement is expected to be made later this month, Japanese government officials have been considering this course of action for months.

Reuters noted that "the decision is expected to rankle neighboring countries like South Korea, which has already stepped up radiation tests of food from Japan, and further devastate the fishing industry in Fukushima that has battled against such a move for years."

"I have a lot of compassion for the fishermen and other people who are making their living in the Fukushima Prefecture and around it who fear for their income at the moment this will take place," Jan Haverkamp, a senior expert on nuclear energy policy at Greenpeace, told Al Jazeera on Saturday. 

According to Al Jazeera, South Korea "still bans imports of seafood from the Fukushima region and has expressed concern" about Japan's plans to release radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. 

"The economic reality for these fishermen is real," said Michael Penn, president of the Shingetsu News Agency. "You can expect that their businesses will be damaged by [the perception of health risks] whether [the seafood] is safe or not safe."

Tomohiko Taniguchi—a former business journalist, past special adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and now a professor at Keio University—claimed that it is "a vast amount of treated water, no longer contaminated." According to Taniguchi, "the only remaining radioactive material is tritium," which he argued is a harmless substance that can be found naturally in water. 

Haverkamp argued that there remains "a lot of uncertainty about the effects of tritium."

"The moment that I hear the word 'treated' being used instead of 'contaminated,'" he retorted, "I can't think differently than this is a kind of newspeak."

When asked why the Japanese government has decided to release the wastewater into the Pacific Ocean despite having other options, Taniguchi responded that "it is the easiest way."

Given the lingering uncertainties about the effects of radioactive wastewater on human and environmental health, Haverkamp advocated for adhering to the precautionary principle, which he claimed "is not a problem at all," since it is possible to store the water for a longer period of time while "continuing to search for better ways to treat this water... before it is released into, for instance, the ocean."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

World Leaders Must Commit to End Covid-19 Patents: Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus

Decrying the "brutally unequal global rollout of Covid-19 vaccines," Yunus wrote that "there is still time for world leaders to say never again."

Andrea Germanos ·

Addressing Crisis 'Existentially Imperiling' Its People, Vanuatu Declares Climate Emergency

"We are in danger now, not just in the future," said Prime Minister Bob Loughman.

Andrea Germanos ·

'Grotesque': Disgust as Trump Reads Names of Uvalde Victims at NRA Convention

Former President Donald Trump and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas were among those pushing a "good guys with guns" theory that "utterly failed" the latest victims of a mass shooting.

Andrea Germanos ·

Wall Street-Funded Democrat PAC to Spend $1 Million in Bid to Unseat Tlaib: Report

"Imagine spending $1 million to oust Rashida Tlaib instead of organizing in Detroit to make sure Michigan goes blue," quipped one progressive group.

Brett Wilkins ·

Parents Demand Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty 'For the Sake of the Children'

"We cannot remain silent as the fossil fuel industry and world leaders rob our children of a livable future," parents from 32 nations wrote in an open letter.

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo