China law professor raises concerns about Fukushima nuclear water discharge at UN meeting

A Chinese law professor and human rights expert expressed concern about Japan’s nuclear water discharge from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station during the 54th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

The statement took place in an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights.

During the dialogue, Li Shouping, a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology representing the China Society for Human Rights Studies, emphasized that the environmental rights enjoyed by humans are a collective human right transcending national borders, and underscored the idea that the management and disposal of hazardous substances are not solely a concern of one country. Li expressed concern about Japan’s decision to discharge contaminated water from Fukushima, stating that it appeared to transfer risks to the global community and could potentially harm future generations and the marine environment.

In August, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a working paper on the Fukushima nuclear water discharge. The working paper argued that Japan had not fulfilled its international obligations in discharging the nuclear water. As the working paper says, according to established international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Japan is obliged to protect the marine environment. When disposing of nuclear-contaminated water, Japan must take all necessary measures to prevent pollution damage to other states and their environments. In addition, the working paper cited the London Convention of 1972, which prohibits the dumping of radioactive waste into the sea via man-made structures at sea, to assert that Japan’s discharge of nuclear-contaminated water through submarine pipelines violated the convention.

Before Japan planned to discharge Fukushima’s radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean, UN experts raised concerns about the potential presence of radioactive isotopes, including carbon-14, and their impact on human health and the environment.

In response to Japan’s decision, hundreds of South Korean activists gathered in Seoul in August to protest the release of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. China has also taken action, announcing a continued ban on food imports from specific regions of Japan. According to Chinese Customs, this measure aims to prevent the risk of radioactive contamination of food safety.