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(LEAD) S. Korea to actively deal with radioactive water discharge from Fukushima plant

Diplomacy 17:30 August 13, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS more details, background)
By Kim Seung-yeon

SEOUL, Aug. 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will actively seek ways to deal with Japan's planned discharge of water contaminated as a result of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown, Seoul's foreign ministry said Tuesday, amid concern storage space will soon run out.

The treatment of radioactive water stored in tanks in Fukushima has drawn international concern in recent months following reports that the Japanese government is considering releasing the water into the Pacific Ocean, among other options.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility company managing the storage, has said it will run out of space to store the toxic water in three years. Greenpeace warned in a report early this year that South Korea will be among countries particularly affected by the discharge into the sea.

"Our government puts top priority on the health and safety of our citizens, and we plan to actively ask Japan to disclose information and to provide us with a concrete stance on the current management system and disposal plans," ministry spokesman Kim In-chul told a regular press briefing.

Seoul has proposed that Tokyo hold bilateral and multilateral talks over the matter since the government became aware in August 2018 of a plan to discharge the water, Kim added.

Two months later, the government sent Tokyo an official statement detailing national concerns and requests in relation to the matter, and continued negotiations over the issue at various levels, bilaterally as well as through multilateral channels, according to the ministry.

The ministry said Japan has only maintained that the final decision for disposal of the radioactive water is still under review and that it will announce it to the international community when it's ready.

"If it's deemed necessary, we will also closely cooperate with our neighbors in the Pacific that are also feared to be affected, so as to actively cope with the problem of the discharge of contaminated water," Kim said.

Tuesday's announcement came amid an escalating economic and political row between the two countries stemming from the longstanding issue of compensation for wartime forced labor.

Since 2013, South Korea has banned all seafood imports from eight Japanese prefectures near Fukushima, after Japan announced a leak of contaminated water.

Tokyo sought to challenge Seoul's decision by lodging a complaint at the World Trade Organization (WTO). In April this year, the WTO finalized the ruling in favor of Seoul, saying the measures do not amount to unfair trade restrictions or arbitrary discrimination.

This photo, provided by Kyodo news agency on March 8, 2019, shows the storage tanks keeping radioactive water from the Fukushima meltdown, in Fukushima, Japan. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


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