via The Korea Times
Korea encouraged to work with Pacific Island countries against Japan’s planned water release
By Lee Hyo-jin
Japan’s planned dumping of radioactive wastewater from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the Pacific Ocean is a shared concern between neighboring countries, including Korea, China and Pacific Island nations.
The Pacific Island Forum (PIF), a group of 18 independent and self-governing states in the region, has been consistently urging Japan to delay the water discharge ― which is expected to begin this summer ― until Tokyo provides verified scientific evidence to back up its decision.
A five-member global expert panel at the PIF has been providing independent technical advice to the member states in their dialogues with Japanese officials. One of them is Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, a scientist-in-residence and adjunct professor at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
Dalnoki-Veress, who has been conducting extensive research on the Fukushima wastewater for over four years, claims that the data provided by Japan should not be taken at face value.
Born in the Netherlands, he previously worked at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany, the Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso in Italy and Princeton University’s Physics Department. At the Middlebury Institute, he focuses on the proliferation of fissile materials, nuclear spent fuel management, emerging technologies and verification of nuclear weapons.
Earlier in February, two members of the PIF expert panel traveled to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, where they witnessed that the “scale of problem is immense,” according to Dalnoki-Veress.
The wastewater is currently stored in about 1,000 tanks with a total storage capacity of about 1.37 billion liters.
Korea is also poised to dispatch an inspection team consisting of local experts to Fukushima next week. The four-day trip is aimed at verifying the safety of the Advanced Liquid Process System (ALPS)-treated water. Foreign ministries of Korea and Japan held a second meeting on Wednesday to discuss the size of the expert panel and specific inspection plans.
Dalnoki-Veress advised that the inspection team should include experts from diverse fields such as eco-toxicologists, marine life and ocean currents, and that they must hold meetings with “true scientists” in Japan.
During their trip to Japan, the PIF experts were rarely able to interact directly with scientists, as the meetings were dominated by officials from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a staff member from the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), he said.
The scientist also viewed that the Korean delegates should be guaranteed the legal right to speak independently to the press, and make sure that the experts are not bound by a non-disclosure agreement limiting what they can say to the public.
As such, he strongly suggested that the media should be present during the meetings in order to guarantee transparency and prevent Japan from using the visit to their advantage.
Dalnoki-Veress went on to say that the Japanese government’s level of cooperation with the PIF experts has been unsatisfactory.
“Operational transparency and the give-and-take which is normal in scientific exchange on difficult issues has been lacking,” he said, adding that data delivered by the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to him and his colleagues was provided in a way that “thwarted their investigations and an open scientific discourse with TEPCO scientists.”
He explained, “For example, early on, we requested data on what is in the tanks and it took them 54 days to respond to us to provide us with the data that we requested. Tank content data were in a form that required extensive sorting and careful review for things like consistency of units before it could be analyzed.”
The panel of PIF experts has proposed several alternative solutions to Japan other than discharging the water into the ocean, such as using the treated water to make concrete for use in projects that will not have close contact with humans. But Japan rejected the idea.
Tokyo’s response to the concrete idea was “beside the point and misleading” in the eyes of Dalnoki-Veress.
“We recommended treatment of the water for removal of non-tritium and non-carbon-14 radionuclides before mixing with concrete. But the TEPCO concrete options excluded pre-treatment, leaving radionuclides with penetrating radiation, like cesium-137 in the water and hence the concrete,” he said.
The Fukushima wastewater issue is expected to be on the agenda during the upcoming inaugural summit between Korea and Pacific island nations, which will be held in Seoul from May 29 to 30. Dalnoki-Veress welcomed the possible cooperation.
“I encourage Korea to work together with the PIF on this common goal,” he said. “In 2023, we have to stop thinking of the ocean like a dumping ground.”