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Seoul raises concerns over Fukushima at IAEA

Sept 17,2019
Seoul is raising concerns over Japan’s plans to dispose of contaminated water at the Fukushima nuclear plant for the first time on the global stage at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Austria.

Korean First Vice Minister of Science and ICT Mun Mi-ock was set to address the 171-member IAEA’s 63rd General Conference, which kicked off Monday in Vienna.

The minister was expected to bring attention to concerns over Japan’s possible plans to dump contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in March 2011 into the ocean.

Mun and her delegation arrived in Vienna early Monday to attend the IAEA conference which runs through Friday.

A massive earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011, causing a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Tokyo Electric Power Company, the state-run operator of the plant, has said it will run out of space to store the contaminated water by 2022.

Seoul has been calling for international cooperation to respond to the possible move by Japan to discharge radioactive water from its Fukushima power plant into the Pacific Ocean, which could affect neighboring countries including Korea.

In January, environmental organization Greenpeace raised fresh concerns about alleged plans by the Japanese government to dump over 1 million tons of radioactive water stored at the Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean.

Seoul became aware of such plans in August last year and in turn has been calling on Tokyo to be transparent about what it plans to do with the contaminated water through diplomatic channels, raising issue about the health and safety concerns of the people of both countries and the environmental impact.

Japan’s former Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada in a press briefing last week proposed a plan to dispose of the contaminated water into the sea as a means to dilute it.

The remarks sparked fierce criticism from Korea’s current Environment Minister Cho Myung-rae who in his first public remarks last Friday called on Japan’s transparency on the matter and urged the government to seek discussions with neighboring nations.

Mun told reporters Monday that the Fukushima water contamination was not an issue just between Korea and Japan but one that affects the international community. She said, “Our objective is not to aggravate Japan but to emphasize this is about the safe management of nuclear reactors following the Fukushima accident.”

Japan was also set to make a keynote address at the IAEA gathering, though it was unclear if the delegation will address the Fukushima water contamination issue.

The Korean delegation was also expected to meet separately with IAEA Acting Director General Cornel Feruta to encourage the agency to play an active role in dealing with the water contamination issue and also hold talks with other member states.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]