Disasters & Accidents

South Korea protests Fukushima spill plan despite atomic agency report

Update 1: Adds protests, opposition voices

Seoul, Jul 5 (EFE).- Protests and concern in South Korea over the plan to dump purified radioactive water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan continued Wednesday despite an International Energy Agency report Agency report supporting the move’s safety.

The central Gwanghwamun square in Seoul was the scene of the umpteenth protest against the spill in recent weeks, which was repeated in front of the Japanese embassy in South Korea, where opposition Party of Justice Leader Lee Jeong-mi began a hunger strike 10 days ago over Tokyo’s plan.

The main opposition block, the liberal Democratic Party, also staged a protest Wednesday in parliament led by its leader Lee Jae-myung, who has made opposing the Fukushima spill one of his great battles against the government of the conservative President Yoon Suk-yeol.

Lee said the report’s authors did not really visit Fukushima to carry out the analysis, while the party’s parliamentary leader Park Kwang-on, said the body “is not an agency that analyzes people’s health and the environment, but the importance of nuclear power generation.

This contrasts with the position of the government, who said it respects the report while being accused of maintaining a subservient attitude towards Tokyo, with whom Yoon has tried to repair ties by approving a controversial plan to compensate South Koreans enslaved by Japanese companies during World War II.

“The government has maintained a long-term position by recognizing the (agency) as a prestigious internationally agreed agency, and we respect its findings,” Park Ku-yeon, first deputy director of the South Korean Executive’s Office for Political Coordination, said at a press conference.

The agency said Tuesday that its report over the past two years states that the dumping plan “complies with international safety standards” and will have “negligible radiological impact” on both human health and the environment.

Park also said Wednesday that Seoul would soon release the report of a team of 21 South Korean experts who visited the plant in late May to inspect on-site preparations and procedures. This could be after agency Director-General Rafael Grossi ends a three-day visit to South Korea to address the results of his analysis.

Grossi, who was visiting the Fukushima plant Wednesday and will be in Japan until Friday, will arrive in Seoul that same day to meet South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin and Korean Nuclear Safety Commission Chairman Yoo Guk-hee.

Japan’s plan, expected to begin this summer, involves dumping about 1.32 million tons of contaminated water from the plant into the Pacific Ocean over several decades, after being processed to remove most of the radioactive isotopes (except tritium) and mixed with seawater.

Tokyo said this water – used to cool the damaged reactors – will have a tritium concentration well below the legal limit established for drinking water.

The Japanese government and the plant operator, three of whose reactors suffered partial meltdowns due to the 2011 tsunami, mulled different options to dispose of the water and, with the agency’s approval, said a decade ago that dumping was the most viable.

However, Japan’s plan has generated uneasiness in neighboring countries such as South Korea and China, which asked Tokyo to stop the plan Tuesday, accusing it of arbitrarily “forcing” its strategy. EFE


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