At the United Nations, Micronesia denounces Japan’s plan to release Fukushima waters into the Pacific Ocean

A worker, wearing protective suits and masks, takes notes in front of radioactive water storage tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant of Tokyo Electric Power Corporation (TEPCO) in Okuma City, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, February 10, 2016. REUTERS/Toro Hanai

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The president of the Pacific island nation of Micronesia denounced at the United Nations on Thursday Japan’s decision to dump what he called nuclear-contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the Pacific Ocean.

In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, David Panuelo said Micronesia had “the greatest concern” about Japan’s decision to launch its so-called Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) into the ocean.

“We cannot turn a blind eye to the unimaginable threats of nuclear pollution, marine pollution and the ultimate devastation of the Pacific Blue,” he said.

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“The implications of this decision are transboundary and multigenerational in nature. As the Head of State of Micronesia, I cannot allow the ocean resources that support the livelihoods of our people to be destroyed.”

Japan said in July that nuclear regulators had approved a plan to release water into the Pacific Ocean used to cool reactors in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in March 2011.

The water was stored in huge tanks at the plant, and amounted to more than 1.3 million tons by July.

Japan’s foreign ministry said at the time that regulators had deemed it safe to release the water, which would still contain traces of the radioactive tritium isotope after treatment.

Asked about Banuelo’s statement, Yukiko Okano, the ministry’s deputy press secretary, referring to Fukushima, said Japan would do its best to “gain understanding from the international community about the safety of our activities there.”

Tokyo Power Electric Company (TEPCO), the operator of the plant, plans to filter the polluted water to remove harmful isotopes apart from tritium, which is difficult to remove. It is then diluted and released to free up plant space to allow Fukushima to shut down.

The plan met stiff resistance from regional fishing associations who feared its impact on their livelihoods. China, South Korea and Japan’s neighbor Taiwan have also expressed concern.

Panuelo also highlighted the threat posed by climate change, to which Pacific Island nations are particularly vulnerable. He called on the two geopolitical rivals, the United States and China, to view it as “a non-political, non-competitive issue of cooperation.”

“And for the shortest period of time, it seemed as if the Americans, with whom Micronesia shares an enduring partnership, and the Chinese, with whom Micronesia shares a great friendship, had begun to work together on this issue, despite increased tension in other regions.” “Now, they are no longer talking to each other about this important issue.”

China announced in August that it was suspending bilateral cooperation with the United States in areas including defense, narcotics, cross-border crime and climate change in protest of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

Panuelo’s remarks coincided with a meeting hosted by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, partners in blue ocean countries, including Japan, aimed at better coordinating assistance to the region in the face of competition from China. Read more

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David Brunstrom reports. Editing by Grant McCall and Stephen Coates

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