Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Henry Puna at the Pacific Island Universities Research Network (PIURN) conference in Rarotonga. MELINA ETCHES / 23070408
It appears the Pacific is still divided on the Fukishima wastewater issue and likely to be a hot topic of conversation at the upcoming Pacific Islands Forum on Rarotonga.
While Prime Minister
Mark Brown has given a clear message on his support for the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Japan’s proposed plans to release
‘treated’ nuclear wastewater into the Pacific, Pacific Islands Forum Secretary
General Henry Puna says it remains clear however, that there continues to be
divergent views and responses in the international community and within the
Forum Membership on the issue.
“I recognise the
sovereignty and prerogative of Forum Members to determine their own national
positions,” Puna said in a statement yesterday.
continue to fuel our unwavering commitment to addressing this unprecedented
“In this respect,
the Forum Secretariat will continue to strive to provide the latest information
and updates to the upcoming Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting on September 15 for
further discussion and consideration, and from there to the PIF Leaders Meeting
in the Cook Islands on November 10.”
As Japan started
releasing treated radioactive water from the devastated Fukushima nuclear power
plant, China was prompted to announce a ban on all aquatic products from Japan.
transfer pumps began the release into the Pacific Ocean shortly after 1pm
Thursday local time (04:00 GMT) with plant operator Tokyo Electric Power
Company (Tepco) announcing earlier that weather and sea conditions were
Secretariat will continue to facilitate ongoing dialogue with the Government of
Japan and the IAEA to ensure that Forum Members are privy to the latest
information and updates,” Puna said.
Puna said he had
placed the highest priority on the Fukushima nuclear wastewater issue, aligned
to the positions pronounced by Forum Leaders.
“Indeed, Forum Leaders have prioritised the importance of ‘international
consultation, international law, and independent and verifiable scientific
assessments’, in view of the Rarotonga Treaty and our nuclear testing legacy
that continues to affect our people and environment, 80 years on, and which
gives rise to our acute awareness in the Pacific region of the threats posed by
nuclear testing and contamination.
Puna said the Forum Secretariat had worked with all members
to pursue different avenues over the last three years to “urge Japan to take
all steps necessary to address any potential harm to the Pacific”, and “to take
all appropriate measures within its territory, jurisdiction and control to
prevent transboundary harm to the territory of another state, as required under
“By the same token, we have relied on Japan’s assurances
that discharge will not take place if it is not verifiably safe to do so, as
well as their commitment to ensuring that the any release would not be allowed
in a manner that endangers the lives of Japanese citizens or those of the
citizens of Pacific Island countries”.
“Our Leaders have noted the latest IAEA report. We have
considered the advice of our PIF independent scientific experts over the past
18 months and thank them for their contribution. We are now aware of the
announced discharge commencement by TEPCO, and the Government of Japan.”
“This will not be the first nor last time we will have to
deal with these issues. I remain dedicated and committed to driving our
collective interests, and I am confident that we will be able to move forward
for the benefit of all states, and present and future generations who share the
Pacific Ocean as our home and livelihood.”
More than one million metric tonnes of the treated water, used to cool the
wrecked reactors after the 2011 tsunami, is stored in some 1,000 tanks around
the site and its removal is a key part of decommissioning the still highly
The entire discharge process is expected to take as long as
40 years and has been mired in controversy.
Monitors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),
which has backed the plan, will be on-site for the discharge, and
samples of water and fish will be taken.
Japan says all radioactive elements have been filtered out
except tritium, which is hard to remove from water. The hydrogen isotope is
also discharged – at higher levels – by operational nuclear power plants,
including in China and France.
The company will carry out four releases of treated water until
March 2024, with 7,800 cubic metres of water released each time. The discharge
that has just begun is expected to take about 17 days.
That water will contain about 190 becquerels of tritium per
litre, below the World Health Organization drinking water limit of 10,000
becquerels per litre, according to Tepco. A becquerel is a measure of
It was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.