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Australia props up nuclear agency amid Pacific concern

Australia announced more funding for the international nuclear watchdog as China seized on division in the Pacific over Japan's release of nuclear wastewater.



Australia has put $3.5 million towards supporting the international nuclear regulator as Pacific leaders cry foul about the dumping of wastewater from Japan. 


Japan has sparked controversy in the region by staging the release of treated nuclear wastewater into the Pacific, splitting regional leaders about its safety.


The International Atomic Energy Agency gave the plan the green light, saying the impact on the environment would be "negligible" and Australia has said it supports the science and the nuclear watchdog's assessment.


It comes as China seizes on the water release from the Fukushima nuclear plant to stir division in nations like Fiji where the government and opposition are split on the move.


The embassy's social media pages have consistently shared state-media editorials and posts about the release not meeting safety standards. 


China's foreign ministry called the Japanese release "extremely selfish and irresponsible", warning it would spread the risk of nuclear contamination.


Part of Australia's new funding will go towards supporting the global water analysis lab network to make water resource management in the Pacific and Southeast Asia more sustainable. 


Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Australia remained a steadfast supporter of the atomic agency in its aim to achieve the peaceful use of nuclear science and technology.


She added that Australia also had a longstanding position about more regional representation on the UN Security Council.


"What we recognise is that there are many parts of the world who are saying that the UN system doesn't sufficiently reflect the contemporary, strategic, political and economic circumstances," she told reporters at the UN in New York on Wednesday.


"I think that's a reasonable criticism and Australia, we don't have any preconditions, we're willing to have a discussion with others to see if there is a way to find reform that is able to have consensus."


The $3.5 million includes $2 million to improve access to affordable and equitable radiotherapy services in the Asia-Pacific and Africa as well as a contribution to a nuclear science training and technology agreement. 


The White House will also bring together leaders in Washington on Monday for a second US-Pacific Islands Forum summit.


Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden would reaffirm the US commitment to the region and to issues important to the leaders including climate change, economic growth, development, health and countering illegal fishing.


"President Biden will ... hear from Pacific Islands Forum leaders how we can increase co-operation to address the mounting challenges of our time," she said in a statement.


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