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[B-SIDE Podcast]: Japan’s nuclear water release: Relevance to Filipinos

Follow us on Spotify BusinessWorld B-Side

Japan is planning to release 1.3 million tons of treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the Pacific Ocean, which covers more than one-third of the planet.

The power plant’s regulators, and even the government of Japan, say that the release will not cause any harm to the world’s oceans, but fisherfolk and activists from different countries surrounding the Pacific, including the Philippines, say otherwise.

In this B-Side episode, Gregg Yan, founder and executive director of the environmental group Best Alternatives, discusses with BusinessWorld reporter Beatriz Marie D. Cruz why Japan’s planned release of treated water from its nuclear power plants should matter to Filipinos.

He said that the move would put at risk “the livelihoods not just of the 17 countries that fish in the Pacific Ocean but essentially of all the countries on earth.”

Mr. Yan said that 70% of the world’s fish catch comes from the Pacific Ocean.

“So much life thrives here, from small fish like anchovies to large and economically valuable fish like tuna, which have spawned multi-billion-dollar industries,” he added, noting that the release of treated water into the Pacific could harm fisheries in the region.

Fukushima plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) has said that the water will continuously be filtered until radionuclides, except tritium, are removed.

Recognizing that it will be difficult to eliminate entirely, TEPCO said that tritium will be diluted in seawater at least a hundred times for its concentration to fall below Japanese regulatory standards.

“A few years ago, the Japanese were already caught not telling the full truth about what’s actually in the wastewater from their nuclear plants,” Mr. Yan said, referring to a 2018 statement from TEPCO acknowledging that more than half of the treated water in the power plant was contaminated with dangerous radioactive elements. Previously, they claimed that the water only contained tritium.

Mr. Yan noted that any radioactive elements are cancerous and could damage smaller aquatic creatures like coral or fish larvae.

He said the best solution for nuclear byproducts is to bury them—out of sight, out of mind.

Mr. Yan also mentioned that the Pacific Ocean “has enough problems on its own,” citing huge amounts of plastic waste settled in the northern part of the ocean called The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is believed to be double the size of Texas or three times the size of France.

According to Mr. Yan, the Pacific Ocean is also facing issues such as climate change and overfishing.

Mr. Yan called on the public to be more concerned about environmental issues and their effects on their lives and the next generation.

“A lot of this environmental news matters to you. It will directly affect your lives,” he said.

This podcast episode was recorded remotely on June 22, 2023.

Follow us on Spotify BusinessWorld B-Side

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