Japan cannot cheat world by tunneling

As the international community has repeatedly stressed, Japan has the obligation to properly handle the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and the disposal of the nuclear-contaminated water to ensure absolute safety.

That Japan's nuclear regulator criticized Tokyo Electric Power Company for its delay in considering emergency responses to the possible collapse of a reactor pressure vessel at the plant has only exacerbated worries over Japan's slapdash handling of the decommissioning process and the management of the radioactive waste.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Shinsuke Yamanaka, the chairman of Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority, said TEPCO should have responded to the new safety hazard when it was discovered last year.

As a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Wednesday, Japan needs to shoulder its international obligations, and properly handle the issues related to the decommissioning of the power plant.

In particular, it needs to suspend its plan to dispose of the nuclear-contaminated water by discharging it into the ocean until all stakeholders and relevant international agencies confirm that it is safe to do so.

Yet out of sight is out of mind as far as TEPCO is concerned. It hopes to surreptitiously discharge the toxic water into the sea. It finished digging an undersea tunnel for this purpose on Wednesday, which means that it will soon begin to treat the Pacific Ocean as its private toxic waste dump unless it sees reason.

The total amount of nuclear-contaminated wastewater accumulated at the crippled plant has now reached 1.37 million tons in total, all of which had direct contact with the meltdown nuclear reactors and contain more than 60 kinds of radioactive elements. It is predicted that it will take at least 30 years to completely discharge all the water into the ocean.

Even processed with the Advanced Liquid Processing System, the contaminated water — which in a word game, the Japanese government and TEPCO insist on calling "treated nuclear wastewater" — will still be highly radioactive.

Whether discharged from a pipe above sea level or an undersea tunnel, the nuclear-contaminated wastewater will still be radioactive, and a threat to marine life and human health.

The current situation and the ocean discharge plan are fraught with hazards. Japan will have an indelible stain on its image and a guilty consciousness that it will impose on its younger generation if it presses ahead with its unconscionable plan.