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Foreign Minister Pushes Japan to Prove Safety of Fukushima Water Disposal

#Hot Issues of the Week l 2021-04-25



South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong attended an emergency question-and-answer session at the foreign affairs committee and told lawmakers that the government will work with international organizations in response to Japan’s planned discharge of contaminated water from Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean. He was doubtful if Japan will sufficiently treat the waste water to a safe level.

South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong said Japan must prove the safety of its plan before discharging a massive amount of radioactive water into the ocean.

During an emergency question-and-answer session of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee Tuesday, Chung expressed South Korea's concerns over its island neighbor's decision.

[Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong (Korean-English translation)]

"We do not believe that the so-called ALPS treatment facility will be able to completely remove radioactive substances (from the water) as Japan claims. Our experts are thoroughly reviewing data that Japan has provided."

Japan has injected cooling water into the crippled reactors at Fukushima Daiichi power plant since the 2011 nuclear meltdown that followed a massive earthquake and tsunami.

Sparking outrage from neighboring countries, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said last week that a total of one-point-25 million tons of that water will be sufficiently treated and diluted before being discharged into the Pacific Ocean.

With about two years remaining until the actual disposal of the water, Chung said Seoul will work closely with international agencies to deal with Japan.

[Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong (Korean-English translation)]

"On the multilateral front, we plan to submit our concerns over the coastal discharge to the UN and World Health Organization and also seek to push for our experts and research agencies' participation in the verification process by the IAEA. In doing so, we may pursue legal options, including filing for international dispute resolution, if  necessary."

The Foreign Ministry also plans to highlight Seoul's concerns during diplomatic talks with countries that border the Pacific Ocean.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) has said he hopes South Korea participates on a team of experts to monitor Japan’s scheduled release of radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima power plant into the ocean.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi shared his views in an interview with Yonhap News on Tuesday, saying South Korea is among the countries expressing the biggest concerns about the issue. 

Noting that there is a large pool of talent in nuclear energy in South Korea, Grossi said it would be valuable to collaborate with experts from the country.

Earlier in the week, fish containing radioactive substances exceeding safety standards were caught in waters near the Fukushima region.

According to the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun on Tuesday, 270 becquerels per kilogram of cesium were found in a rockfish caught in waters some 37 meters deep near the Fukushima Prefecture city of Minamisoma on April 1.

The detected amount of cesium is about two-point-seven times the standard of 100 becquerels per kilogram set by the Japanese government.In February this year, a rockfish caught near Fukushima contained 500 becquerels per kilogram of cesium.

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