Veronika S. Saraswati, Researcher, CSIS Indonesia
a. Danger of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear waste
The Japanese government approved a plan to discharge more than 1 million tons of wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea. This plan has been drawn up since the administration of PM. Yoshidide Suga, then continued by PM. Fumio Kishida (2021). Even though it has been opposed by the Japanese people, especially by the Japanese Fishermen community, Japanese scientists and countries in the region, Japan will still realize the plan.
In fact, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company Holding, which held the Fukushima nuclear project, did not say the real facts about the safety of the content of very dangerous substances in their nuclear wastewater. The Japanese government remains ignorant of the strong protests of Japanese civil society and instead supports TEPCO’s plan with claims that the disposal of nuclear waste will be safe because the water is processed to remove almost all radioactive elements and will be diluted. The plan also has support from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which says the release is similar to the process of disposing of wastewater from other power plants projects.
Nevertheless, the IAEA support must be questioned for Japan has not provided information that is in proportion. This is because Japan itself has not published the detailed content of the waste to be disposed of. Even if it had been made public, several Japanese scientists and civil society strongly rejected the plan because TEPCO provided information not based on objective facts about the content of hazardous substances in the nuclear waste.
The IAEA must make a serious and objective investigation of the Fukushima case given the devastating effects on humans and the environment if Fukushima’s nuclear waste disposal plan continues. Scientists say nuclear wastewater contains active toxins that are harmful and deadly to the environment and humans.
Therefore, Fukushima’s nuclear waste disposal plan is a very serious problem and must be subject to close supervision from all parties. Objective studies are indispensable for the resolution of this case, and Japan must be open to involving all competent parties, Japan must also be open to the international public regarding any progress in the Fukushima nuclear waste case. Japan should put the safety and life of the human being and the security of the marine environment as the main considerations. Solving the Fukushima nuclear problem by dumping Fukushima nuclear waste at sea only meets economic and pragmatic interests because it is the cheapest road economically. It is economically cheap yet deadly to human life and the world’s food chain.
b. Destroying and killing human life, marine life, and the environment
Japan’s disposal of nuclear waste containing radioactive substances is obviously bound to contaminate the world’s ocean waters. The decay of nuclear waste containing radioactive substances in waters takes a long time, it can be up to hundreds of years. The nuclear waste will contaminate not only the waters around Japan, but the ocean currents will carry the nuclear waste containing radioactive substances to flow into any waters unstoppable. Indonesia cannot ignore this problem because Indonesia’s geographical location is not too far from Japan so that the sewage waste must be carried away by currents flowing into Indonesian waters, especially in the northern Sulawesi region, northern Kalimantan and northern Maluku.
Not only the waters in Indonesia, but Fukushima nuclear waste will also flow through all the world’s waters because the ocean currents flow unstoppable. So that the damaging and deadly effects of Fukushima nuclear waste will be experienced by all humans in the world. Nuclear waste, no matter how small, it must contain great dangers, moreover the Fukushima nuclear waste is weighing about to 1.25 million tons. Although the Fukushima nuclear waste disposal plan according to Japan has met the standard, which is 900 kilometers from the nearest island, it is feared that because of the very large and massive quantity, there will definitely be transboundary pollution (pollution amongst countries through ocean currents).
According to scientists, Fukushima’s nuclear waste disposal will severely damage the viability of marine life or biota. Radioactive radiation on Fukushima’s nuclear waste will cause a somatic influence and a genetic influence. Somatic influence is the impact that occurs directly on a single individual exposed to radiation of radioactive material. While genetic influences have an indirect effect, they have an impact on subsequent offspring. Somatic influence can be human damage to the nervous system, decreased functioning of body organs, carcinogenic, anemia, skin damage. The impact caused by such radioactive substances is accumulative.
Those very dangerous effects will be emerged after the next five, ten, or even twenty years. This accumulation also occurs in marine life connected in the food chain; Then, it is consumed by humans. The result could be the originator of cancer, fetal disorders, physical defects, organ defects, reduced human lifespan, DNA mutations in microorganisms, DNA damage to human cells, and many others.
Radioactive pollution is indeed potentially deadly, and even more worrying is the effect on the genetics of exposed animals. Marine life can be affected by radiation in a variety of ways, including death, declining mutations, or the inclusion of these radioactive substances in the food chain. Marine animals are also particularly at risk of being affected by radiation. Radiation is absorbed into the food chain when animals eat plants and other animals that are irradiated by radioactive substances. This cannot be underestimated because it can pose a serious threat to the extinction of marine life and humans.
The disposal of hazardous waste was already executed by Japan at around 1956. The Minimata Kumamoto case occurred when Japanese Company Chisso dumped its danger chemical waste into Minamata Bay in very large quantities; the heavy metal content of mercury (Hg) discharged in Minimata Bay had made most Japanese citizens suffer for life as a result of being affected by mercury waste. Waters polluted with waste containing heavy metals result in children being born disabled and deaths of citizens due to exposure to mercury heavy metal waste in Japanese waters. Japan should have taken a valuable lesson from the Minimata case, by not repeating the same fatal mistake in the Fukushima nuclear waste case. Executing Fukushima’s nuclear waste disposal plan means not only posing a very serious threat to the survival of humans and marine life in Japan, but also of all mankind.
c. Violating seriously Human Rights
The rights to life and survival is the most fundamental human right for every human being. The nature of the existence of rights to life is non-negotiable (non-derogable rights). Rights to life is the rights that has the most fundamental value of modern civilization. It can be formulated, if there is no rights to life then there will be no subject matter in other human rights.
United Nations (UN) formulates that everyone has the rights to life, freedom, and safety. This provision very clearly provides a guarantee of the rights to life. Another International instrument that provides an unequivocal formulation of the rights to life is Article 6 of International Covenant Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 6 paragraph (1) of the ICCPR states that: Every human being has an inherent right to life. These rights must be protected by law. No human being can be rashly deprived of the right to life.
Article 3 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) has regulated and guaranteed this fundamental right. Japan’s dumping of nuclear waste containing radioactive substances into the sea is a serious violation of Article 3 of the UDHR. The entire water area of the world will be polluted with heavy radioactive substances so that directly and indirectly cause death due to carcinogenic effects on waters contaminated with radioactive substances.
The content of radioactive substances in Fukushima nuclear waste seriously threatens the survival of humans and marine life as described above. This disposal of Fukushima nuclear waste was carried out by Japan consciously. Although Japanese scientists have explained the deadly effects of human life and the influence so badly on the human body that it causes death from the act of dumping Fukushima nuclear waste into the sea, Japan will still execute its plan on 2023.
Fukushima nuclear waste contains harmful radioactive substances that can kill humans and other adverse effects on human health. Japan actions violate seriously Article 3 of the UDHR and Article 6 of the ICCPR. Fukushima’s nuclear waste deprives the people’s rights to life and to survive. Whereas the human rights to life is non-negotiable, absolute. Japan’s decisions are contrary to the UN goals to protect the environment for humans only have one earth inhabited together. Every human being has the rights to life and to survive. Rights to life and to survive is a substance of the human rights; and the human rights is guaranteed by the UDHR and ICCPR. Japan’s dumping of Fukushima nuclear waste into the waters of the South China Sea is therefore an act of serious violation of human rights and cannot be justified under any arguments and scientific theories.
d. Violating seriously International Law
Environmental problems that occur in a country are the responsibility of the international world because mankind has only one earth inhabited together and is related to each other through oceans. So that environmental issues are one of the important issues in international relations. Environmental pollution, resource degradation and global warming are serious problems that occur today. The dumping of Fukushima’s nuclear waste into the ocean will obviously pollute the world’s aquatic environment.
Japan in utilizing nuclear power must pay attention to safety principles in nuclear use including solutions in the event of force majeure such as the leakage of the Fukushima nuclear installation. Any activities related to the use of nuclear power must consider on safety, security, and tranquility, the health of workers and members of society, as well as the protection of the environment.
Japan’s plan to dump Fukushima nuclear waste into the South China Sea, beside seriously violate the UDHR and ICCPR, also violates United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS) Articles 192-237. The UNCLOS 1982 demands each State to make efforts to prevent, reduce, and control pollution of the marine environment from any source of pollution, such as pollution from the disposal of hazardous and toxic waste sourced from land based, dumping, from ships, from exploration and exploitation installations. In this case, Japan as a technologically advanced country should be able to solve the problem of damage to the Fukushima nuclear installation in a way that is safe for humans and the environment, not by throwing the nuclear waste into ocean.
In doing efforts to prevent, reduce and control environmental pollution, Japan must cooperate both regionally and globally as stipulated by Articles 197-201 of the UNCLOS 1982. Cooperation with neighboring countries in efforts to prevent, reduce and control environmental pollution must be considered by Japan’s foreign policy because Fukushima’s nuclear waste disposal must have an impact not only on neighboring countries, China and South Korea and North Korea, but also the whole world.
Second, Japan should put the sustainability of human life into consideration primarily rather than simply fulfilling the economic and pragmatic principle of dumping Fukushima’s nuclear waste in the waters of the South China Sea. Third, serious violations on some number of international rules of law may be considered for reporting the Fukushima nuclear waste disposal case to an international tribunal.
Fukushima’s nuclear waste disposal is briefly a serious violation of human rights and international law. The Japan’s decisions on Fukushima nuclear waste case cannot be justified from any perspective because the human death, the extinction of marine life and environmental damage is inevitable results of this Japan’s decisions.
If this plan is still to be executed by Japan and is proven to violate international law regarding the disposal of nuclear waste, then Japan may be subject to legal sanctions. Japan should abide by international law and international conventions as a form of responsibility for human survival and environmental sustainability. Moreover, humans face increasingly complex environmental problems such as climate change due to global warming. The problem of environmental damage will be further exacerbated by the pollution of waters by Japan’s Fukushima nuclear waste.
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