Why Didn't Japan Tell Korea of Nuclear Waste Plans?

      April 06, 2011 08:38

      The Japanese government neither consulted nor informed Korea about a plan to discharge some 10,000 tons of contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the sea. Yet according to Japan's TBS Television on Tuesday, Tokyo discussed the matter with the United States in advance and they agreed that it is feasible to dump water tainted with low levels of radioactivity into the sea rather than storing it unless there are other options available.

      Tokyo also told the International Atomic Energy Agency of the decision in conformity with the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution, but it did not tell individual neighboring countries because the water was discharged on the Pacific side. That at least is the explanation offered by Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano in a press conference Tuesday after Tokyo's silence raised eyebrows in the region.

      Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto told reporters separately the dumping does not violate the 1986 Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident, which obligates nations to provide data such as the accident's time, location and radiation releases to affected states "when harmful trans-boundary radiation release is feared."

      But Korea has already detected small levels of radiation linked to the stricken plant, and even Japan's own maritime pollution prevention act stipulates that Tokyo should consult with countries that could be affected when it decides to dump harmful materials into the sea. It is common sense for Tokyo to notify Seoul because seawater from the Pacific side is borne by currents to the East Sea.

      Even in Japan itself some feel they could have been given more information. Japanese Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Michihiko Kano said it is "very regrettable that Tokyo Electric Power Company has released radioactive water into the sea without telling" the ministry. Fishermen in the nearby areas protested because they are worried about their catch.

      "It stands to reason that Korea should be given more accurate information since it imports Japanese agricultural and fisheries products," a diplomatic source in Tokyo said. "It seems Japan is trying to downplay the scale of the disaster by keeping a lid on information."

      Meanwhile, contamination was worsening Tuesday in the sea near the Fukushima plant, with iodine-131 detected in coastal waters at 7.5 million times above normal. Contamination fears have led to a sharp drop in seafood consumption in Japan.

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