Local expert criticises Japan’s plan to discharge treated Nuclear wastewater into the ocean as unethical and harmful to the environment

Professor Kenneth Leung, Chair Professor of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry at City University of Hong Kong

9th June 2023 – (Hong Kong) The Japanese government, in conjunction with Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), plans to discharge processed nuclear wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the ocean, triggering international concern. The Hong Kong government has also stated that if Japan insists on unilaterally discharging the nuclear wastewater into the ocean, it will ban imports of aquatic products from the highest risk prefectures.

Professor Kenneth Leung, Chair Professor of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry at City University of Hong Kong, criticized Japan’s plan during a radio program on June 9, calling it unethical. He believes the responsible approach would be to discharge the nuclear wastewater into inland lakes in Japan.

Leung pointed out that even after dilution and treatment, the nuclear wastewater would still be harmful to humans and the environment if discharged into the ocean. Consuming food containing large amounts of radioactive materials could lead to the accumulation of radiation in body tissues and bones, or even cause genetic mutations and cellular changes, potentially resulting in blood cancer and other diseases.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was severely damaged during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, resulting in a nuclear accident. Since then, a large amount of contaminated water has been stored at the site, and the Japanese government has been considering how to dispose of it for several years.

Japan claims that the nuclear wastewater has been treated and diluted to reduce its radioactive content to a level that meets international safety standards. However, there are concerns that some radioactive isotopes, such as tritium, cannot be removed from the wastewater, and doubts remain about the accuracy of the measurements used to determine the radiation levels.

The discharge of nuclear wastewater into the ocean could have significant impacts on marine ecosystems, as well as the fishing and tourism industries. It could also affect neighbouring countries, including Hong Kong, which has a significant seafood import market and a high level of public concern about the safety of food.