Pacific leaders split over Fukushima nuclear wastewater release

Pacific leaders are split over Japan's plans to gradually release 1.4 million tonnes of treated nuclear wastewater from the defunct Fukushima power plant over a period of 30 to 40 years.

The release is due to get under way Thursday morning.

"There's a possibility we may have a splinter on our view on the Fukushima discharge, on the whole, we'll probably find consensus," former PIF chair and Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka told RNZ in Port Vila.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said the plan met international standards, but not all Pacific leaders were convinced of the project's safety.

Rabuka was optimistic that Pacific countries, particularly those in Melanesia would eventually see eye to eye.

"Traditionally we are together on most issues," Rabuka said.

The Japanese government said it was "not willfully" trying to divide Pacific nations.

In an effort to pull out this so-called 'splinter' or ease the pain, The Pacific Islands Forum chair and Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown said forum leaders would, "as a matter of priority", consider the latest developments in their next meeting in Rarotonga and Aitutaki in November.

First Foreign Forum Ministers were to meet in September. They too were to discuss the issue.

"We note the IAEA's recommendations that the plans by Japan are consistent with international nuclear safeguards and that impacts on the environment and human health are negligible," Brown said.

"At the same time, we appreciate the advice rendered by the independent PIF panel of scientific experts," he said.

The advice has been mixed, two of the PIF panellists appointed by the Secritant have said it has been an uphill battle trying to get information from Japan to verify safety. They said there have been "red flags" in the data and one even criticised the IAEA, a move nuclear experts do not take lightly.

The UN nuclear watchdog boss has since defended its position on Japan's wastewater dump.

Other experts on the PIF panel said they had no issue with the release and no harm would come to the Pacific as a result, from a scientific standpoint.

"It is not lost on me that there remains diverging views and responses in the international community, and within our Blue Pacific region," Brown said.

He said, as chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, he was committed to maintaining an ongoing dialogue with the government of Japan and the IAEA on this matter.

"As custodians of our Blue Pacific Continent, and in recognition of the transboundary and transgenerational nature of this issue, it is incumbent on all of us to ensure the highest level of due diligence and ongoing monitoring of the planned discharge," Brown said.