Protests are growing in South Korea over Japan’s Fukushima water project Environmental News

Seoul, South Korea – Lee Dong-ho, Dong3, has been fishing in the waters off the South Coast of South Korea near Japan for 40 years and his eldest son is now taking charge of their business life.

Lee firms keep snapper and yellowlet, mackerel and anchovies and run a drying and processing plant.

“We are surrounded on three sides by the sea,” Lee, a resident of Dade village on Geoj Island, told Al Jazeera.

South Korea has changed its fishing industry over the past 30 years amid criticism of fishing. Lee represents his positive change because most of his business is involved in marine-fish farming – as opposed to open water catching – which now earns more than half of South Korea’s inland seafood.

But now the 9 9 billion a year industry faces a new challenge.

Last month, Japan announced plans to release more than a million tonnes Water wasted in the Pacific Ocean from the Fukushima disaster.

“People will avoid seafood and fishermen will lose their jobs when the Fukushima polluted water is discharged,” Lee said.

South Korean fishermen groups are among the most vocal opponents of the controversial plan to take the flag to sea to protest.

“With human concerns about the potential radioactive contamination of recent products, our industry will only have to face catastrophic damage,” a coalition of 25 fisheries companies said in a written protest to the Japanese embassy last month.

The Japanese government has announced its plans for the water – after the power plant was destroyed in the 2011 tsunami – used to cool reactors at Fukushima – after protests from China and South Korea on April 13 and weeks of protests in Seoul.

A South Korean university student shaved his head last month in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul in protest of Japan’s recent decision to dump contaminated water into the sea from Fukushima. [Kim Hong-ji/Reuters]

Leaders effectively camped in front of the Japanese embassy, ​​demanding the Tokyo reverse course, calling on the environmental Armageddon, petitioning and shaving the heads of some students.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, in the final year of his five-year term with the lowest approval rating since his party’s recent election defeat, spoke out strongly against Tokyo’s decision, urging officials to look for legal ways to block Japan. Discharge of unclean water.

But apart from the political strategies that have shaped the response in the region, fishing communities in southern South Korea are among the most concerned about the potential impact of their livelihood planning.

Among them are the governors of Jeju Island and Gyeongsang Province, and the mayors of Busan and other cities and towns who called for abandoning Japan’s plan and urging the South Korean national government to act more urgently.

“The sea is an important resource for an ecosystem that guarantees the lives of Korean fishermen, not tourism in the GEOJ region,” Bayon Kawong-Young, mayor of GEOJ Island, told Al Jazeera.

Japan has insisted that the treated water is safe to remove harmful radioactive substances and plans to start releasing it within two years.

It is estimated that the wastewater will take at least a year to reach South Korea’s fishing grounds, but some say it could take less than 200 days from the date of discharge, the Yonhap news agency reported.

“It will eventually flow into the seas around South Korea and Geoj Island,” Bayun said.

Dealing with waste water

Three of its six reactors melted when the tsunami hit the Fukushima-Daiichi power plant in the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

The molten nuclear material must be regularly cooled by sea and rainwater, otherwise it will overheat and explode, but during the cooling process the water becomes contaminated with harmful radionuclides and becomes radioactive.

Japan’s fishing industry has also expressed concern about the impact of the Fukushima disaster [File: Kyodo/via Reuters]

Almost equal 500 Olympic size swimming pool The company that runs the power plant, Techio Electric Power Company, Techio Electric Power Company, Techio Electric Power Company, says it is out of place.

It has long been argued that the best way to deal with water is to gradually release it into the Pacific Ocean over a period of 30 years – a plan announced by the Japanese government. Tepcio also used it to remove harmful radioactive substances from the water using an advanced liquid processing system, ALPS.

Tepcio also acknowledged in 2018 that the LPS system failed to adequately purify the water of dangerous cancer-causing radionuclides, and environmentalists fought planned discharge considering its scale, which calls for further studies.

“It’s not clear at all how it affects the food chain, how it affects human health,” said Marcos Orellana, UN Special Rapporteur on Environmental Sound Management and Human Rights for Hazardous Substances and Waste Removal. Professor of the Department of International Environmental Law told Al Jazeera.

Japan has said the discharge process will be monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, which has backed Tokyo’s plan.

However, some have called the IAEA a “neutral technology agency.”

Wastewater – the equivalent of about 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools stored in containers around the Fukushima site [File: Kyodo/via Reuters]

“The IAEA has a mandate to accelerate and expand peaceful nuclear power,” said Orellana, skeptical of the agency’s pace of support for the plan.

“The day Japan announced its decision to discharge contaminated water … why would the IAEA go out in support of Japan on the same day?” He asked.

Environmental law

Before the development of modern international environmental law, “the seas were considered a land of waste, as cans of trash,” Orellana said.

According to Orellana and other experts, the discharge of Fukushima wastewater into the Pacific Ocean would violate international law.

The London Convention of 1972 and the Follow-up Protocol of 2006, which Japan was a signatory to, sought to “prevent pollution of the marine environment due to sea dumping”.

“The London Dumping Convention considers the dumping of radioactive substances to be prohibited,” Orellana said.

A South Korean spokesman said President Moon had suggested that Seoul could take the matter to an international tribunal for maritime law, but that the matter was under political consideration.

The United States has come out in support of Tokyo’s plan, unless it is overseen by the IAEA, and Seoul will be wary of objecting to Washington because it sought help from the Biden administration in establishing peace with North Korea and in the war against Seoul

Critics of Japan’s plan argue that they could only acquire more land nearby to conserve water unless they employ a clean-up process.

A fisherman in a small port on Geoj Island, southeast of Seoul, mixed his net. The Fukushima community is concerned about the impact of discharging wastewater into the sea [File: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters]

Meaning for a simple reason: not following options is also suggested.

According to Greenpeace, the most dangerous substances in water, strontium and carbon, will remain in the water even after being treated by ALPS – with a half-life of 14 – 30 and 5,730 years.

The environmental group also points to tritium, which is more difficult to remove from water but less understood in terms of its environmental threat, as it is bound to seaweed and can then more easily enter the food chain, according to its report: Steaming Tide 2020: Fukushima The reality of the radioactive water crisis.

Report author Shawn Barney argues that ALPS treatment and ocean discharge were chosen over more effective options because they cost less and are given the idea that the problem is being managed.

“Alternatives are expensive, but more expensive, the cost of polluting the Pacific Ocean with radioactive material for hundreds of years,” Orellana agreed.

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