Nuclear Issues

The Pacific's nuclear legacy and our ongoing commitment to a safe, nuclear-free Pacific ensures that nuclear issues remain a standing agenda item for the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting. 

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    South-Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (Rarotonga Treaty)

    The Rarotonga Treaty was borne out of the Pacific's lived experiences with nuclear weapons testing. States Parties to the Treaty of Rarotonga are Australia, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. This countries makes up one of the six nuclear weapon free areas in the world.

    The Rarotonga Treaty contributes to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament within the South Pacific nuclear free zone. The Secretary General is the Depositary of the Treaty and provides regular reports and updates to the different Forum meetings.

    In 2019, Leaders called for the operationalisation of the Rarotonga Treaty, and enhanced engagement in global disarmament and non-proliferation.

    Following a first States Parties Meeting on 15 December 2020, State parties called for the convening in 2021 of the Consultative Committee to consider operationalising the Treaty. In 2021, the Rarotonga Treaty Consultative Committee discussed practical means of operationalising and advancing the Treaty to ensure its full operation, effect and compliance, and securing the nuclear-free status of the Blue Pacific.

    Ongoing Impact of Nuclear Testing in the Republic of Marshall Islands

    During the time that the Marshall Islands was under US trusteeship, the U.S. Government detonated 67 atmospheric and ground weapons over a twelve year period. The long-term legacy of nuclear testing in the Pacific has had profound consequences on the national and human development of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

    These consequences were examined in 2012 by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights implications of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes. As observed by the UN Special Rapporteur, the nuclear testing “resulted in immediate and continuing effects on the human rights of the Marshallese”.  The UN Special Rapporteur paid particular attention to the effects of nuclear testing on the Marshallese people’s right to health, and the long-term consequences of the displacement of communities from their traditional land.

    The Pacific Islands Forum has been a long-standing supporter of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and its people in their efforts to seek a just resolution to their claims for adequate compensation for the ongoing consequences of the US’s nuclear testing. This commitment was most recently affirmed in 2017 at the Forum Leaders’ meeting in Samoa where the communique says:

    Leaders recalled that the Republic of the Marshall Islands was placed by the international community under the trusteeship of the United Nations administered by the United States of America, both of which therefore have ongoing obligations to encourage a final and just resolution for the Marshallese people. Leaders welcomed the recommendations in the Special Rapporteur’s report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2012, and that the statement of the UN Secretary-General on 14 August 2017 that “finding a solution to this issue is critical for the future of the Republic of the Marshall Islands” and his assurance that the relevant United Nations entities stand ready to respond to requests for assistance.”

    “Leaders supported bilateral, regional and multilateral action to assist the Republic of the Marshall Islands in its efforts to engage the United States towards a justified fair and just resolution to the U.S. Nuclear Testing Programme.

    Read the 2017 Communique here.

    In March 2018 the Forum Chair, the Hon Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa, communicated the Forum’s position of support for the Republic of the Marshall Islands to the President of the USA. The Forum Secretariat, Pacific Community (SPC) and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) are consulting with the Republic of the Marshall Islands Government to identify ways in which they can provide support to address the ongoing consequences of nuclear testing.


    Nuclear Legacy Issues

    The Secretariat supports the work of the CROP Taskforce on Nuclear Legacy Issues to coordinate CROP assistance to the Republic of Kiribati and the Republic of the Marshall Islands in addressing ongoing impacts of nuclear testing, including inter alia, human rights, environmental contamination, and health impacts.

    “Ours is a moral case for which we are more than justified to seek redress commensurate with the damaged inflicted on the people and their islands.” 

    President Hilda Heine of the Republic of Marshall Islands, 3 March 2017

    Forum Engagement on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan

    In April 2021, Japan announced its decision to discharge over a million tonnes of treated nuclear wastewater, Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), into the Pacific Ocean, beginning early 2023. This was part of work to decommission the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima, which was damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

    Since Japan's announcement in April 2021 at the Ninth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM 9), Forum Leaders highlighted the priority of ensuring international consultation, international law, and independent and verifiable scientific assessments with regard to Japan’s announcement. 

    Forum Members committed to pursue independent guidance to interpret the scientific evidence as it became available. Hon Prime Minister Suga of Japan stated that the discharge of the ALPS treated water would be conducted while ensuring no harm to the environment and human health, and Japan would continue to provide Forum Members with explanations based on scientific evidence, in a highly transparent and timely manner and in close cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Forum Leaders welcomed Japan’s intent of ensuring transparency and continuing close dialogue to clarify all issues.

    The Forum Secretariat appointed an independent panel of global experts on nuclear issues to support Pacific nations in their consultations with Japan.  Forum members continued discussions with the Government of Japan, and the PIF Independent Panel of Experts assessed the data and information received from Japan. The independent assessment done by the PIFS Panel of Independent Experts raised concerns that the data shared by Japan was inadequate, insufficient, and inconsistent. The PIF Panel of Independent Experts have since released their assessment reports conveying technical and scientific findings.  

    We are custodians of the Blue Pacific, spanning 60 million square miles. In view of the Pacific's nuclear legacy issues, and the complexity of the issue, the 2022 and 2023 Pacific Islands Forum Communiques recalled strong concerns by Forum Leaders over the potential threat of nuclear contamination to the health and security of the Blue Pacific, and noted the extensive Forum dialogue and engagement process taken over the last three years.

    The release of the ALPS treated water nuclear wastewater into the Pacific ocean commenced on 24 August 2023, and will continue over the next 30 to 40 years. Leaders have recommended and encouraged Japan to:

    (i) Embed the Fukushima issue as a standing item of the PALM agenda; and 

    (ii) Establish a political dialogue annually to ascertain safety issues based on international safety standards and ongoing independent monitoring by the IAEA. 

    Read the Factsheet: English / Japanese