Catholic bishops criticise Fukushima clean-up plans

Japan and Korea’s Catholic bishops are decrying the Japanese government’s plans to clean-up Fukushima by releasing millions of litres of radioactive water into the sea.

“We oppose the release of water containing the radioactive substance tritium into the ocean after purifying the contaminated water from Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant,” they said this week in a letter to Japan’s Prime Minister and cabinet members.

Releasing tritiated water after it goes through a purification process is wrong, the signatories say.

“We have a responsibility to hand over to future generations a global environment where we can truly live safely and with peace of mind,” the bishops point out, citing Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on a Christian ecology, Laudato Si.

“Since the world has been given to us, we can no longer view reality in a purely utilitarian way, in which efficiency and productivity are entirely geared to our individual benefit,” Francis says in the encyclical.

“Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.”

The bishops’ letter also noted a range of community interests are against the plan.

Local government councils of Fukushima Prefecture and of other prefectures are opposed to it. As are the local and National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives.

Then there’s the Governor of South Korea’s Jeju province, an island in the Korea Strait. He has also called for preparations to be suspended.

The event that caused the Fukushima nuclear plant to fail.

Back in 2011, three nuclear reactors at the plant suffered meltdowns in the massive 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami.

The damaged reactors have to be constantly cooled with water, which becomes radioactive in the process.

The plans

The current plans consider dumping over 1 million tons of partially cleared radioactive water into the ocean, as soon as 2022.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which operates the nuclear plant, says it has removed all radioactive isotopes but tritium.

An expert panel says tritium is harmful only in very large doses.

In addition, the International Atomic Energy Agency says if properly filtered, the water could be diluted with seawater and safely released into the ocean.

However, the Catholic bishops argue that the water’s secondary treatment is still in the testing stage.

Furthermore, the bishops point out, health experts disagree about the health effects of tritium, citing claims that it is linked to stillbirth, Down syndrome, and childhood death due to leukemia.

They advocated that treated water be stored in tanks or solidified in mortar. Ocean release should not be the only method, they said.

The bishops say it is “worrisome” that the government report did not mention the effects of treated water on non-human marine life and the marine environment.

The release of radioactive material into the ocean is “irreversible,” they said. Government officials had provided false information in the past regarding nuclear power plant building and maintenance.


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