Collective statement on nuclear wastewater issue

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OKUMA, JAPAN – JANUARY 19: In this aerial image, damaged reactors and tanks store treated radioactive water are seen at Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on January 19, 2023 in Okuma, Fukushima, Japan. Japanese government announced the controversial plan in April 2021, saying the release would start in about two years. It has been opposed by fisheries in Fukushima Prefecture and neighboring countries. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

The Forum Fisheries Ministers (FFM) will issue a collective statement on the Fukushima nuclear wastewater issue, which will highlight the need for more intense dialogue between the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) scientific panel, the Government of Japan, and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) scientists on the impact of the ongoing release.

Following a one-day FFM meeting at the PIF Secretariat last Friday, PIF chair and Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown said that the statement would acknowledge the Pacific leaders’ stance on the issue to date.

“It reaffirms our role as the custodians of the Pacific Ocean, and it calls for elevated dialogue with both the government of Japan and the IAEA on the impact of the ongoing release in an ongoing, accountable, and transparent manner,” Mr Brown said.

“All of our countries have expressed concern about the proposal by Japan at some stage or another, particularly when it was first proposed as a project. Over time, those concerns have been taken to the government of Japan, by myself personally as the chair of the Forum, and a mechanism was agreed to, whereby Japan would need to demonstrate and provide assurance that what it will do is not going to harm the ocean. So, from the outcomes of that first initial engagement with the Japanese government earlier this year in February, there was an agreement for more intense dialogue between the scientific panels of the PIF and also the scientists from Japan. But the request was also for the engagement of the IAEA scientists to also provide a report on the proposal by Japan.”

He said the report was received by PIF leaders a few months ago and the forum Troika’s position was that very country was entitled to read it and that “the position of each country as a sovereign independent state should be respected by each of our members”.

“On forum engagement and advocacy, we discussed the strategic opportunities at the upcoming 78th UN General Assembly, as well as the second US Pacific Islands Forum summit with President Biden to be held in Washington DC. We emphasise the importance of partners engaging with the Forum through established regional mechanisms and aligning to regional priorities.

“In terms of strengthening partner engagement, we discussed the increased strategic interest in the region and the need to strengthen our engagement mechanisms so that we’re able to translate this interest into tangible outcomes for our countries for our peoples.”

Mr Brown said that the statement also acknowledged the need for the Pacific region to build scientific capacity and monitoring capabilities to assess the health and wellbeing of the Pacific maritime ecosystems.