China Bans Japanese Seafood Over Fukushima Wastewater Release: What You Need to Know

Russell Nketiah Tannor

China Bans Japanese Seafood Over Fukushima Wastewater Release: What You Need to Know

China has announced a total ban on seafood imports from Japan, citing health concerns over the release of treated radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.

The ban, which took effect on Thursday, August 24, 2023, was met with strong criticism from Japan, which called it "unscientific" and "unreasonable". Japan said that the release of the wastewater was safe and necessary to decommission the crippled plant, and that it had followed international standards and obtained approval from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The wastewater, which contains radioactive tritium and other isotopes, has been accumulating at the Fukushima plant since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered a triple meltdown. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the plant, said that it had no more space to store the water and that it had treated it to remove most of the harmful substances.

However, China and other neighboring countries, such as South Korea and Taiwan, have expressed doubts about the safety and environmental impact of the release. They have also accused Japan of violating international law and ignoring the rights and interests of other countries.

China's foreign ministry said that the release was a "selfish and irresponsible act" that ignored international public interests. It also said that China would take "necessary measures" to protect its people and environment from potential harm.

"China strongly urges Japan to face up to its responsibility for nuclear safety, revoke its wrong decision on disposing nuclear wastewater at sea as soon as possible, and return to the international consensus on this issue," the ministry said in a statement¹.

China's ban on Japanese seafood is expected to deal a heavy blow to Japan's fishing industry, which has already suffered from reduced demand and consumer confidence since the 2011 disaster. China was the largest buyer of Japanese seafood in 2022, accounting for 22.6% of Japan's total exports².

Japan's agriculture minister Kotaro Nogami said that China's ban was "extremely regrettable" and urged Beijing to lift it as soon as possible. He also said that Japan would continue to provide accurate and transparent information on the wastewater release and its safety measures.

"We will continue to explain to China and other countries that there is no problem with the safety of Japanese food products, including seafood," he said at a press conference.

Japan has also faced protests from its own fishing communities, who fear that their livelihoods will be ruined by the stigma attached to Fukushima seafood. Some fishermen have opposed the release plan, saying that it would undo years of efforts to restore consumer trust and market access.

TEPCO said that it had started releasing a small amount of wastewater on Thursday, after conducting safety checks and obtaining consent from local authorities. It said that it expected to discharge about 7,800 cubic meters of wastewater over a 17-day period, and that it would monitor the water quality and radiation levels.

The company also said that it would suspend the release immediately and conduct an investigation if any abnormalities were detected in the discharge equipment or the dilution levels of the wastewater.

The IAEA has endorsed Japan's plan and sent a team of experts to observe the release process. The agency said that it would provide independent verification of Japan's data and ensure that the release was conducted in accordance with international standards.

"The Agency will continue to support Japan in this important work," IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement.

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