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Taiwan's envoy to Japan says trace elements of radiation good for health

Jun 18, 2023Jun 18, 2023

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’s envoy to Japan said that consuming trace elements of radioactive materials is healthy, four days after Japan began to release over 1.3 million tons of radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean.

“After the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, the world is a little sensitive to radiation,” Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) wrote on social media on Sunday (Aug. 27). “However, trace amounts of radioactive elements are beneficial to the body,” he said.

Hsieh referenced the presence of the radioactive element radium in Taipei’s Beitou hot springs, one of the only two places in the world where the element is found in a hot spring. However, the water being released from the Fukushima nuclear plant does not contain radium, but tritium.

Regarding the claim of health benefits, a 2020 study on the radiation levels in Beitou’s hot springs found that radium levels made sampled water not safe to drink, though background radiation was only higher than the global average in certain more enclosed areas. Pseudoscientific claims of radium’s health benefits led to a fad in the late 1800s that continued into the early 20th century, while the use of radium for cancer treatment was phased out in the 1960s in favor of safer radioactive elements.

Experts are divided on the decision to release the nuclear power plant’s wastewater into the ocean, though many agree that it will not directly cause harm to the environment or people. Physics and astronomy professor at Curtin University Nigel Marks said that the release is similar to many others that have occurred over the past six decades.

“The main problem with the release is that it sounds bad,” he said. “Despite the controversy, ocean release is the only practical option at Fukushima, and every conceivable step has been taken to choose the best decision that considers all factors."

Director of the Kewalo Marine Laboratory at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Robert Richmond, disagreed, and said Japan’s decision to release that water is disappointing, but not surprising. “This action will be to the detriment of future generations who will likely suffer the consequences of decisions that are made based on expediency, politics, and profit above people."

Meanwhile, Japanese fishing groups said they fear the release will lead to reputational damage for Japan. China, Hong Kong, and Macau have already banned certain Japanese seafood products, and South Korea’s opposition and civic groups have mounted protests in response to the release.