Seeking action on the radioactive groundwater leaking from Fukushima

The Honourable John Baird

Minister of Foreign Affairs

 

The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq

Minister of the Environment

 

The Honourable Rona Ambrose

Minister of Health

 

The Honourable Gail Shea

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

 

House of Commons

Ottawa Ontario

K1A 0A6

Ottawa, September 5, 2013

Dear Ministers,

As you are aware, the situation at the Fukushima nuclear facility in Japan has become increasingly serious, as nuclear regulators in Japan were forced to reclassify the severity rating of the latest incident to Level 3 or "serious incident" on the international scale for radiological releases. 

The operator, Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), has discovered that 300 tons of highly radioactive water has leaked from a holding tank into the ground over the past month.  This is in addition to TEPCO's admission last month that an estimated 300 tons of radioactive groundwater has been leaking into the Pacific Ocean every day.  

The new storage tank leak presents a different and potentially more serious problem than the ongoing groundwater flow leaks. The water from the leaking tank is heavily contaminated with strontium-90 and cesium-137.  The radioactive leak is far from under control and could get a lot worse, according to nuclear experts.  Japan's atomic energy commission has warned that if water in one of the spent fuel pools on site is lost, the result would be a spent fuel fire, with disastrous effects globally.  TEPCO has said it needs overseas help and expertise to help manage the crisis and mitigate the situation.

This is becoming a growing international issue, with concerns being voiced by countries in the region, including China, Korea and others.  While the impact of the current leaks may not pose an immediate danger to Canadians, and in particular, residents of British Columbia, there are concerns that as the crisis continues, and perhaps cascades into a more severe emergency, the impact will be much greater.

Given the seriousness of this situation, we are writing to ask what has the government done so far on this file, how are your ministries involved and to what degree?

We are also calling on the government to take a number of actions.

We would like the government to take the lead on developing an international task force to assess, monitor, and advise on the growing crisis. The problem has the potential to affect not just Japan, but the region, and possibly the planet, so international cooperation to control the situation is both appropriate and necessary.

The Canadian government should be providing financial and technical assistance to Japan to immediately de-escalate the crisis.

With the potential for contamination, the federal government should be increasing monitoring and testing for radiation levels along the coast, at the least to determine a baseline level in the event the situation escalates.

Testing of harvested fish on the West Coast, in particular of migratory, long lived, and top of the food chain species should be conducted on a routine basis to ensure the safety of the catch and to protect human health.

The health and safety of Canadians is a primary concern of the New Democratic Party, and we hope you will act swiftly and decisively to adopt our recommendations and avert what could become a catastrophe.

Sincerely,                                           

 

Paul Dewar                                                         Megan Leslie                    

NDP Foreign Affairs Critic                             NDP Environment Critic          

 

Libby Davies                                                       Robert Chisholm

NDP Health Critic                                              NDP Fisheries and Oceans Critic

This Open Letter to Ministers & Public Officials was posted on September 17, 2013
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