IAEA Director General emphasised to Pacific leaders its commitment to transparency and neutrality in monitoring Japan’s plans to discharge treated water into the Pacific Ocean

As Japan prepares to discharge treated water from the site of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the Pacific Ocean, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi was in Fiji to listen to the concerns and views of Pacific nation leaders and explain the IAEA’s role as an independent, scientific, and neutral body in monitoring the plans. 

During the two-day trip to the archipelago, Grossi met with ministers from the region and visited climate change affected communities, a university, and a research centre working with the IAEA.

Joining the Pacific Islands Forum in the country’s capital, Suva, Grossi explained the IAEA’s role in Japan’s discharge plans. “The concerns of Pacific islanders are important and legitimate,” he said and emphasised the IAEA’s commitment to transparency and neutrality in the process.

In April 2021, Japan announced the Basic Policy on handling of the treated water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, which is to discharge the treated water into the sea surrounding the plant, subject to domestic regulatory approvals. Soon after, the country’s authorities requested assistance from the IAEA to monitor and review those plans and activities.

Credit: IAEA

Grossi has set up a Task Force composed of independent experts, including from the region, to provide Japan and the international community with an objective and science-based safety review of the discharge activities at the site.

Meeting with Fiji’s Minister for Health and Medical Services Ifereimi Waqainabete, the two spoke about the IAEA’s Rays of Hope initiative and increasing access to life-saving cancer treatment options, such as radiotherapy.

Grossi said the initiative, launched in February this year, could help provide increased access to cancer care access in the Pacific region.

Grossi also spoke with ministers from different Pacific nations, including the Marshall Islands’ Minister of Education, Sports and Training Kitlang Kabua. On the margins for the Forum, Grossi also met with Tonga’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Fekitamoeloa ‘Utoikamanu.

Tonga is one of the IAEA’s newest Member States, having joined in March this year.

Grossi congratulated ‘Utoikamanu and expressed his eagerness to work more closely with Tonga on sustainable development and ocean issues.

Islands in the Pacific are already dealing with rising sea levels because of climate change.

In Fiji, Grossi visited Toguru village, a community that has been acutely affected and is at risk of being evacuated due to rising waters. “Communities in the Pacific are in many ways the ‘canary in the coal mine’ when it comes to climate change,” Grossi said.

“Hardly responsible for the carbon emissions in our atmosphere, they today face some of the worst consequences of climate change. Nuclear science and technology have roles to play in supporting these communities and addressing this challenge, so we must do more.”

Grossi also took the opportunity to also visit the University of the South Pacific (USP), a regional hub for science and research through its marine laboratory. The IAEA will cooperate with the laboratory within the framework of NUTEC Plastics, an IAEA initiative to address marine plastic pollution using nuclear techniques to trace and transform plastic waste for improved recycling.

The Director General also visited the Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees of the Pacific Community (SPC) where the IAEA and Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) are together working with the laboratory there on a project to improve crops resilience to climate change through a nuclear technique called mutation breeding.

The technique accelerates natural mutation processes, and in this project will help develop improved climate-resilient varieties of yam, sweet potato, banana and chili — staples of Pacific Island communities — and in this way improve food security in the region.

This story was written by Michael Amdi Madsen, originally published at IAEA on 08 July 2022, reposted via PACNEWS.

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