World community cannot tolerate a radioactive Pacific | Inquirer Opinion
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World community cannot tolerate a radioactive Pacific

/ 01:22 AM May 10, 2011

THIS REFERS to Ceres Doyo’s latest excellent column titled: “Toxic sea: NIMBY.” (Inquirer, 4/7/11) She was very worried about the worsening nuclear situation at Fukushima, Japan, with thousands of tons of radioactive water being dumped into the Pacific Ocean.
Doyo expressed a local and international concern. “Not in my backyard” simplifies the liability of a neighbor. The international law rule is: “Polluters pay.” Internationally, dumping of hazardous waste in rivers and lakes is regulated by the Basel Convention; discharges of toxic waste at sea are governed by the London Convention. Whoever pollutes pays. This is the rule of civilized men.

Japan has been secretive about nuclear issues. On the other hand, at the start of the Fukushima disaster, the Philippines’ health and nuclear authorities announced that, whatever happened to the reactors at Fukushima, the Philippines would not be affected—even if at that time, there was already a report that radioactivity had reached Iceland and, as reported later on from Vienna, also all of the northern hemisphere. The Inquirer’s Amando Doronila, incredulous of the Philippine government’s position, suggested that, if the public officials were proven wrong, they should submit themselves to a mass “suicide by hara-kiri,” Japanese style.

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It has been reported that four of the reactors are at various stages of nuclear meltdown. Elements of cesium, iodine and plutonium have been detected in the air, the soil and the sea. Experts say that they would be radioactive for decades, or hundreds of thousands of years. Even “low-level” nuclear waste elements, like technician -99 and iodine -129, have half-lives of “210,000 and 15.8 million years,” respectively. In fact, many scientists, like Don Benison, chair of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), believe that radiation has “no threshold dosage”; all radiation, however small, presents a risk.

The international press initially hinted at entombing the damaged reactors, guided by the Chernobyl experience. Fairewinds, a consultant for the US nuclear industry, has suggested that the best solution is “to entomb the whole site” of Fukushima’s damaged reactors. The bleeding of the nuclear reactors has to be arrested, the sooner, the better.

FEATURED STORIES

The international community, which has shrunk into a village through cooperation, can no longer tolerate a radioactive Pacific. China and South Korea have already criticized Japan for the radioactive contamination of their atmosphere. Damon Moglem of the Friends of the Earth, for instance, categorically states that dumping this nuclear waste directly into the Pacific (which has also receded into a mere lake) is “dangerous and unacceptable.” Chernobyl has been entombed. Unless the Japanese authorities have other viable options acceptable to the international community, particularly the Apec (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) nations, the damaged nuclear reactors at Fukushima have to be entombed soonest.

The international principle that “polluters pay” is not adequate. There is no substitute for enjoying surfing in Hawaii, communing with the sun, the sand and the sea at Boracay, and relishing sashimi and sushi at any Japanese bar in the Pacific rim.

—NELSON D. LAVIÑA,
retired ambassador, [email protected]

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TAGS: Environmental issues, Japan, radiation, radioactive
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