The Korea Herald


Court dismisses complaint seeking to block Fukushima water release

By Choi Si-young

Published : Aug. 17, 2023 - 15:38

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Boxing gloves are illustrated with the flags of South Korea (right) and Japan. (123rf) Boxing gloves are illustrated with the flags of South Korea (right) and Japan. (123rf)

The Busan District Court on Thursday dismissed a complaint seeking to block Japan from releasing its wastewater from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant, saying the court has no jurisdiction to review the case.

In April 2021, a coalition of 166 local environmental groups asked the trial court to stop the discharge by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., citing the London Convention -- a global pact on ocean pollution by preventing the dumping of waste.

The release, which could start as early as September after Japan removes most of the radioactive elements except for tritium, is the first step toward decommissioning the plant crippled by a tsunami in 2011.

The Korean civil code, the group added, also mandates that neighbors take the responsibility for providing “appropriate measures” needed not to cause pain prompted by pollutants.

“The convention deals with dispute settlement for countries and not people in them,” the court said in a ruling. “No courts in any signatory countries can use the convention as a basis for a ruling.”

The court noted that the local civil code was not the “kind of a legal framework by which to rule on complaints” because it is unclear whether any court decisions could be enforced on Tepco, a company based in Japan. The court would have to address “endless complaints involving public nuisance” if the current case were to merit review, it added.

Currently, South Korea and Japan are in the final stage of working-level talks addressing safety concerns over the discharge plans, a consultation prompted by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol last month when he met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Lithuania.

Yoon asked Kishida to allow Korean experts to take part in the discharge process, share with Seoul in real time data on the process and suspend the release altogether if radioactive levels exceed safety levels.

“Consultations are almost done. We just need to do some paperwork finalizing them,” said Park Ku-yeon, the first deputy chief of the Office for Government Policy Coordination, the Korean body responsible for leading interagency efforts to put the discharge plans in check.

Whether Yoon and Kishida would further discuss the issue at the Camp David summit in Maryland on Friday, an unprecedented three-way gathering US President Joe Biden is hosting at his retreat, is not something the government could say, according to Park.

“As far as I know, the issue isn’t technically on the summit agenda. That’s for sure,” Park said, adding he cannot be sure what Kishida would do.