On nuclear water discharge, UM Social Principles are 'clear'

On nuclear water discharge, UM Social Principles are 'clear'
Image created by Peter Hermes Furian, licensed for use from Adobe Stock.

September 01, 2023

Submitted by Pastor Chan Kim

God Saw All That He Had Made, and It Was Very Good.

Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Contaminated Water Discharge Is Not Like That

Brothers and sisters in Christ,
God's many blessings be upon you!
I am a pastor of Rockford-First and Marble Rock United Methodist Church. I live in Rockford, Floyd County, the home of the Devonian fossils. This beautiful and wide-open "Fossil and Prairie Park" is about two miles from my parsonage. This summer I had a visit from my little friend, Sam, and I took him to the fossil park, where he and I had an exciting time digging, finding and picking up several fossils. A very few of you are wondering if there are any fossils in northern Iowa. According to the Fossil Center, 350 or 400 million years ago, most of Iowa was an ocean and Floyd County was its shoreline. I was interested and surprised to learn this as well. Wow, the traces of our life today will still be deep and wide in 35, 350, 35 million years from now, and these fossils make me realize that we should leave our descendants and their descendants' descendants with a clean and beautiful nature and sea and air and traces of human life.
In this sense, I want to express my unequivocal opposition to the discharge of contaminated water from Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean. I also want to express my unequivocal opposition not only to the contaminated water from Fukushima but also to all countries and governmental organizations that dump nuclear water into the ocean. I believe that this discharge of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean poses a serious threat to the health and safety of millions of people, especially those living along the Pacific coast of Japan, South Korea and the United States, as well as to the marine ecosystem that God created and entrusted to us.
According to media reports, broadcasts and Internet articles, Japan has decided to release more than one million tons of (treated) radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean over the next 30 years. The water contains tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that is difficult to remove. Japan claims that the water release is safe and necessary, as the storage tanks at the plant are running out of space and the water poses no significant risk to human health or the environment. Japan also says that it has consulted with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other experts and that the water release aligns with international standards and practices. However, South Korea, China and other neighboring countries have strongly opposed Japan's decision, accusing it of being selfish, irresponsible and violating international law.[1]
Some experts and environmental groups have also expressed concerns about the potential impacts of the water release on the ocean and its wildlife, especially as tritium can accumulate in fish and other organisms over time. They also question the transparency and accountability of Japan's decision-making process and call for more consultation and cooperation with the international community. On the other hand, some scientists and media outlets have defended Japan's decision, saying that the water release is not going to kill the Pacific Ocean or pose any significant threat to human health. They argue that tritium is a low-level radioactive substance that occurs naturally in the environment and that its concentration in the water will be diluted and dispersed by the ocean currents. They also compare Japan's water release to other countries' practices, such as France and South Korea, which have routinely discharged tritiated water into the sea for decades without any adverse effects.[2]
Our United Methodist Church's Social Principles are clear on this issue. I hear this social principle not as a statement, but as a call to us.

Water, Air, Soil, Minerals, Plants

We support and encourage social policies that serve to reduce and control the creation of industrial byproducts and waste; facilitate the safe processing and disposal of toxic and nuclear waste and move toward the elimination of both; encourage reduction of municipal waste; provide for appropriate recycling and disposal of municipal waste; and assist the cleanup of polluted air, water, and soil. .... We support measures designed to maintain and restore natural ecosystems.[3]

As United Methodists, we are called to be stewards of God's creation and to care for even the least of these. The discharge of contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant not only pollutes the ocean but also puts many people at risk of cancer and other diseases. This is especially unfair to poor and marginalized communities who depend on fishing and tourism for their livelihoods.
As a Korean American, I feel a strong sense of connection and solidarity with my Korean brothers and sisters facing this crisis. South Korea is one of Japan's closest neighbors, and we share a long history and culture. The release of contaminated water will affect not only our two countries but also other countries in the region. I pray that God will give wisdom and compassion to the leaders and people of both countries and that they will work together for the common good.
As a United Methodist pastor, I join other religious leaders and organizations in opposing this plan. I support the statement issued by the World Council of Churches (WCC) calling for "more sustainable solutions based on human dignity, justice, solidarity, human rights, protection of creation and intergenerational responsibility." I also applaud the efforts of the Korean Methodist Church in launching a campaign to raise awareness and advocate for policy change. I encourage all United Methodist churches and people of goodwill to join the movement and voice their concerns to their governments and representatives.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Genesis 1:1, 31a)

Thank you for your prayers, concerns, and support.
Chan Kim

* Bing was very helpful in finding newspapers, articles and research for this article.
[1] Japan Battles Backlash After Releasing Wastewater From Fukushima ....
Fukushima: China accused of hypocrisy over its own release of ....
[2] The Legal Case Against Japan’s Fukushima Wastewater Decision.
No, the Fukushima water release is not going to kill the Pacific Ocean.