It has been 10 years since an unpredictable earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused an accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. On April 13, 2021, Japan decided to discharge “water still potentially radioactive from the Fukushima nuclear power plant” into the ocean, as this would be “the best way to dispose of tritium and traces of other radionuclides in the water.” The first test releases could begin within two years, and it will probably take decades to dispose of 1.25 million tons of wastewater (plus that which will accumulate in the meantime).
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United States have announced their support for the project, and for the Japanese government. However, several fishing communities and many Japanese citizens have protested against the decision. In addition, the plan has been strongly criticized by neighboring countries. Human rights experts from the United Nations and environmental NGOs such as Greenpeace have expressed strong concerns and oppose the program on the grounds it threatens human health and the marine environment.
At the same time as announcing the plan for the release of wastewater, Japan confirmed its intention to proceed with the Olympic Games, which had been postponed last year, in the summer of 2021, because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. This also leads us to reflect on how complex and multifaceted are the issues that interconnect not only the nations of East Asia, but also the whole of humanity, now a global community.
This article addresses the complicated issue of Fukushima wastewater, looking at the dimensions of scientific control, the common good and public responsibility in the spirit of Pope Francis’ encyclicals Laudato Si’ (LS) and Fratelli Tutti (FT), which shed new light on the meaning of the common home under the dark clouds of the pandemic.