India must raise concerns at the IAEA over Japan’s plan to release Fukushima water into the sea

An open letter from Dr. EAS Sarma, former Union Power Secretary:


Shri Rajiv Gauba
Cabinet Secretary
Govt of India

Dear Shri Gauba,

Please see my letter dated 17-10-2020 addressed to Mr. Rafael Mariano Grossi

Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expressing my concerns about Japan’s decision to release a million tonnes of Fukushima waste water contaminated with radioactive isotopes into the Pacific Ocean. At that time, I based my letter on the following Guardian news report.

Ever since the occurrence of the disastrous accident in 2011 that resulted in the Fukushima nuclear power reactors being subject to a meltdown, Japan has been draining hundreds of tonnes of contaminated water daily into the Pacific Ocean, despite the widespread concerns expressed by the global community. TEPCO, the Japanese company responsible has failed to handle effectively the accumulation of contaminated water that resulted from its efforts to cool down the accident-stricken Fukushima reactors. I have been appealing to the IAEA since 2017 to intervene and find a more environmentally benign solution to the Fukushima problem but I am yet to receive any meaningful response from the Agency.

India is an important member of the IAEA and, to the best of my knowledge, DAE has not vehemently raised its concerns on this before the IAEA.

The very fact that TEPCO is unable to handle the aftermath of the deadly Fukushima disaster should have woken up our own nuclear establishment to recognise the potential dangers of nuclear technology and revisit the present plans to import reactors on a large scale and enlarge nuclear power generation capacity. It is unfortunate that India has failed to put in place an independent regulator for nuclear facilities. The existing Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), however technically competent it may be, is subordinate to the Dept of Atomic Energy (DAE) whose activities it is expected to regulate.

Post-Fukushima, in the midst of worldwide anxiety over the safety of nuclear technology, DAE introduced the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) Bill in the Parliament proposing to replace AERB with a new regulator, ostensibly more independent compared to the former. The concerned Parliamentary Standing Committee considered the Bill in 2012 and made several far-reaching recommendations to ensure that the new legislation would provide a truly independent regulatory authority directly accountable to the Parliament, not DAE. Neither the then UPA government nor its successor NDA government cared to move forward with that legislation, leaving a huge regulatory gap in so far as the nuclear establishment in the country is concerned.

It is therefore not surprising that neither DAE nor AERB has chosen to question the discharge of Fukushima’s radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean and Japan’s latest decision to drain a million tonnes of such water into the ocean, posing a serious threat to the global marine ecology. India being an important and a responsible member of the IAEA, should have raised its serious concerns about the way in which Japan has been taking unilateral decisions on the release of Fukushima waster water.

I have just come across an insightful report in Indian Express on some senior Indian experts raising their concerns about the adverse environmental consequences of this for India. The following link refers.…into-sea-will-cause-disease-along-asian-coastal-belt-experts-7056108/

I am surprised that the Union Ministry of Environment should remain silent on this development when its charter includes responding o global events that impact the local environment.

It is all the more a matter of concern that DAE which functions under the aegis of the PMO should fail to appraise the latter of the far-reaching implications of the latest decision taken by the Japanese government.

This is far too serious a matter that can be routinely ignored.

May I request you to place this letter for the Prime Minister’s perusal so that India may take a formal stand before the IAEA at the earliest?


Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma
Former secretary to GOI




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