No cause to worry about our waters, says minister

An aerial view showing the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. — AP

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s waters remain uncontaminated by the recent release of treated water from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean, says Chang Lih Kang, responding to recent concerns over the safety of local seafood.

The Science, Technology, and Innovation Minister said current radioactivity levels of the country’s waters do not pose a threat.

He said that according to expert reports and World Health Organisation guidelines, the target level for tritium (a product of nuclear fission) in drinking water is 10,000 becquerels per litre (Bq/L), and its half-life – the time required to halve the radiation dose – is 12.3 years.

It has been 12 years since the Fukushima nuclear plant accident caused by the March 2011 tsunami, Chang pointed out.

He added that, “To date, we have detected only 200Bq/L in Malaysia’s waters, and according to simulated flow patterns, it will be several more years before it (the treated waste water) reaches waters near Malaysia,” he said.

“While we cannot claim absolute safety, there is currently no need for worry. There is no need for undue concern about elevated radiation levels in our country’s seawater,” he told The Star.The minister also said a water monitoring system has been installed at Universiti Malaysia Sabah’s jetty, with plans to install four more devices this year.

Chang said Malaysia is following in the footsteps of Vietnam and Singapore, who have already adopted similar systems.

“These devices, each costing approximately RM600,000, will not only monitor the release of wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant but will also serve as safeguards against maritime chemical pollution incidents.

“Our maritime corridors see a lot of shipping traffic. These devices can play a crucial monitoring role in an oceanic chemical contamination incident,” he said.

On Aug 25, it was announced that the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry was taking public concerns over the released wastewater seriously and is closely monitoring the situation.

A gamma spectrum water monitoring station was also established as a precautionary measure to track any rise in radioactivity levels in real time.

Data from the station is continuously monitored at the National Centre for Nuclear Response Management in Dengkil, Selangor, ensuring a swift response to any changes in radioactivity levels.

Meanwhile, Chang acknowledged the growing anxiety among Malaysians about potential seafood contamination.

“We can only rely on scientific data to demonstrate the safety of our seawater,” he said.

For now, he said Malaysia continues to monitor the situation diligently.

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