By Kim Tae-jong
The government will be able to take legal action against Japanese authorities if the latter continues to leak radioactive water into the ocean which could affect marine life in Korean seas, experts said, Tuesday.
Their view is a response to the recent leaks of highly toxic water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which has fuelled concern here over possible environmental impacts.
"Our government can demand Japan provide us with timely and detailed information about water leaks from the nuclear power plant, and also to stop leaking radioactive water," said Kim Young-sok, a law school professor at Ewha Womans University. "It is necessary to take every possible precautionary action, as radiation damage can be irreversible and may be much larger than we expect."
But if Tokyo fails to meet this request, Seoul should consider taking the case to the international courts, he said.
"This can be the violation of International Maritime Law (IML)," he said. "Even merchants at local fish markets who have seen a drastic drop in sales due to the perceived health risks from fishery products can be compensated if they can prove they have been affected."
According to the IML, affected neighboring countries must have been informed and consulted before Japan decided to leak radioactive water into the ocean as it could have a significant impact on the environment, he said.
The world's nuclear watchdog has voiced its concern over radioactive water leaks, urging Japan to explain more clearly what is happening at Fukushima.
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano was quoted as saying the leakage is "a matter of high priority that needs to be addressed urgently," promising to send an international mission to assess the situation, Tuesday, during a news conference after the IAEA board of governors meeting in Vienna, Austria, Monday (local time).
A recent legal dispute between Ireland and U.K. has been cited as an example.
Ireland began a legal challenge against the British government over its decision to approve a new nuclear plant in England, arguing the Irish people should have been consulted before the UK government granted approval given its impact as the proposed plant is as close to the Irish coast as it is to London.
Ireland argues that affected EU members states must be informed and consulted during the planning stage of certain infrastructure projects that could have a significant impact on the environment.
Lee Seok-woo, a law school professor at Inha University, also pointed out that it is necessary to review whether Japan breached an international convention or protocol.
Korea and Japan have joined the "London Convention and Protocol" which aims to protect the marine environment from human activities and to take all practicable steps to prevent pollution of the sea by the dumping of wastes and other matter.
The London convention, however, allows emergency dumping or incineration at sea.
The International Maritime Organization also said the convention only covers disposal into the sea of waste or other matter from vessels, aircraft, platforms or other man-made structures at sea and if it comes from land, this comes under international legislation.
It is obvious that Korea will be affected by the water leak from the tsunami-hit power plant, although there are disputes on the level of the health risk.
The Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology, affiliated with the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, has recently announced that the radioactive water could affect marine life in Korean seas as early as next year.
일본이 실시하는 수산물 방사능 검사 결과가 우리나라 식품안전당국의 검사결과와 상당 부분 일치하지 않는다는 지적이 나왔다.
9일 국회 보건복지위원회 소속 남윤인순(민주당) 의원이 식품의약품안전처로부터 제출받은 '일본산 수입수산물 방사능 검출 현황'을 보면, 일본이 방사성 물질이 검출되지 않았다는 검사증명서를 제출한 64건 가운데 62건(96.9%)에서 방사성 물질이 검출됐다.
일본과 우리나라의 검사 결과, 공통으로 방사성 물질이 검출된 경우는 전체의 3.1%인 2건에 불과했다.
식약처는 후쿠시마 원전 사고 이후 일본산 수입수산물 131건에서 기준치 이하의 방사능 세슘과 요오드를 검출했다. 이 가운데 방사능검사증명서를 제출한 것은 64건(48.5%)이었으며, 나머지 67건은 지정된 16개 현 이외 지역에서 수입된 수산물이었다.
남윤인순 의원은 '일본측 방사능검사결과와 우리의 검사결과가 심각한 불일치를 보이는 것은 큰 문제'라며 '부산 감천항검사소의 검사 전담인력을 늘려 안전관리를 강화해야 한다'고 말했다.
이에 대해 식약처는 '일본에서 10Bq/㎏ 이하의 방사성 물질이 나오면 불검출로 처리해 국내 검사결과와 일치하지 않는 경우가 있었다'며 '일본 정부에 불검출 기준을 강화해달라고 요구한 이후 부터는 이 같은 문제가 거의 일어나지 않고 있다'고 해명했다.