As a result of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, the power supply and cooling of three Fukushima Daiichi reactors were disabled, resulting in a nuclear accident that started on March 11, 2011. However, although the nuclear disaster was triggered by the earthquake and tsunami, the true cause was a systematic defect in nuclear power. In this sense, it was not an unpreventable natural disaster but rather a man-made disaster that could have been avoided. Despite the fact that the Fukushima nuclear disaster occurred 12 years ago, there are still unresolved pollution problems in the disaster area. On March 9, 2023, multiple organisations gathered together to call on Taiwan not to forget the lessons of the disaster, to bid farewell to old nuclear power, and to oppose the Japanese government’s plan to discharge nuclear wastewater into the Pacific Ocean.
Cui Suxin 崔愫欣, Secretary General of the Green Citizens’ Action Alliance 綠色公民行動聯盟, spoke at the press conference and stated that up until now, there has been little to no progress in removing the remaining fuel rods and debris from the Fukushima reactors. Furthermore, highly contaminated water leaks from the ruptured barrier, generating approximately 130 tonnes of water per day. In order to relieve the sewage that can no longer be discharged, the Japanese government has agreed to allow Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) 東京電力公司 to discharge contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean for at least 30 years. Although it has been stated that the majority of the water will be retreated before being discharged, there is no guarantee that this will actually remove all of the radioactive substances in the water. However, dumping radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean is a violation of international law. Fortunately, there have already been numerous protests, both by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other marine research organisations, as well as by local Japanese citizens. The latter is mainly due to the lack of consultation with local fishermen or residents, as well as the Japanese Ministry of Environment’s intention to reuse the contaminated soil with lower concentrations of radioactive substances as agricultural land.
On March 4, 2023, Friends of the Earth Japan 日本地球之友 held a seminar in Tokyo, highlighting the public’s disappointment with the acquittal of three former TEPCO executives on January 8. Despite evidence that 44 people died during the initial evacuations to a hospital four kilometres from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the High Court rejected the victims’ testimony that TEPCO was to blame for this disaster. With this, Tsai Chungyue 蔡中岳, Executive Director of Citizens of the Earth, Taiwan 地球公民基金會, intends to demonstrate that the Japanese government should face the disaster and thoroughly investigate the incident. However, according to Xie Beiyi謝蓓宜, Deputy Secretary General of the Environmental Jurists Association (EJA) 環境法律人協會, victims of the Fukushima disaster filed a successful lawsuit against the Japanese government and TEPCO in 2021, claiming that the Japanese government could have foreseen the disaster and failed to prevent it, and was thus legally liable. Tsai also stated that seven victims filed a lawsuit against TEPCO in January 2022, because many of the plaintiffs were diagnosed with thyroid cancer even ten years after the disaster. However, it is known that over 300 Fukushima residents have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, indicating that radiation exposure has had long-term effects on the lives of Fukushima residents. Despite this evidence of nuclear power’s negative effects, the Japanese government has decided to extend the operating periods of nuclear power plants. This demonstrates that the government has not learned the important lessons of the Fukushima disaster, that it is dominated by nuclear interests and that it does not value public consultation. However, Xie advocates that without the ability to dispose of nuclear waste and without a responsible nuclear waste disposal policy, there is no right to talk about the use of nuclear power.
How should we proceed in the future? Are there any alternatives to nuclear power? According to the 2022 World Nuclear Industry Status Report, nuclear power accounted for 9.8% of the total global commercial electricity generation in 2021, dropping below 10% for the first time in 40 years. Wind and solar energy accounted for 10.2% of total electricity generation in 2021, surpassing 10% for the first time and surpassing nuclear energy. Renewable energy is no longer just a distant technology but a safe, low-carbon source of electricity that can be built into the areas where we live. However, it is critical not to overlook the irreversible damage caused by nuclear energy. According to Tsai Yaying蔡雅瀅, Lawyer at Taiwan Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association 台灣蠻野心足生態協會, the Japanese government has been actively promoting “energy saving” since the Fukushima disaster, with Japan’s electricity consumption decreasing by 9.1% since the pre-Fukushima 2010 level. She also advocates for the nuclear power plant’s safe decommissioning in order to avoid nuclear disasters in Taiwan. Furthermore, Yang Shunmei 楊順美, Secretary General of the Mom Loves Taiwan Association 媽媽氣候行動聯盟, noted that Taiwanese business groups have recently made statements regarding the introduction of small modular reactors (SMR). However, these SMRs are a technology that may face significant economic challenges, as research has revealed that they would generate 2 to 30 times the amount of nuclear waste as conventional nuclear plants. Thus, we should strive for a future with minimal nuclear power and focus on reusable power.
Spokespersons at this meeting: