China Implements Ban on Japanese Seafood Imports Following Fukushima Wastewater Release

by Ella

Japan’s commencement of discharging over 1 million tonnes of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has incited a swift response from China, leading to an immediate, comprehensive prohibition on seafood imports from Japan. This move has triggered indignation within nearby fishing communities and exacerbated concerns over the aftermath of the Fukushima incident.

The operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), initiated the release on Thursday, as sanctioned by the Japanese government two days prior. The process began at 1:03 pm local time (0403 GMT), with Tepco reporting no anomalies identified in the seawater pump or surrounding facilities. Live footage showed engineers monitoring screens and an official announcing, after a countdown, the opening of “valves near the seawater transport pumps.”


While the UN’s nuclear watchdog, which endorsed the plan, had monitors on-site for the procedure, Tepco personnel were slated to collect water samples later on Thursday.


Despite flexible funding enabling the acquisition of essential supplementary supplies like pulses, oil, and salt, the World Food Programme (WFP) now confronts a significant funding shortfall jeopardizing their life-saving initiatives.


The WFP’s current operations are at a precarious juncture, and without further financial support, it is doubtful they will approach even half of their intended target. A funding gap of $567 million, equivalent to 78 percent of the required funds for the next six months, presents a formidable challenge.


Neighboring countries have expressed their displeasure at the discharge, with China branding it “extremely selfish and irresponsible.” The Chinese foreign ministry emphasized the ocean as a collective global resource and condemned the release as disregarding international public interests.

South Korean police apprehended at least 14 individuals who entered a building housing the Japanese embassy in Seoul during a protest against the release. The concerns surrounding the release are compounded by fears that the fishing industry will suffer as consumers avoid seafood caught around Fukushima.

Tepco’s approach involves releasing the water gradually and subjecting it to additional scrutiny. The initial discharge, comprising 7,800 cubic meters, is anticipated to span approximately 17 days. The utility intends to initiate the release cautiously, starting with a small quantity.

The wastewater issue at the Fukushima site has posed diplomatic challenges for the Japanese government, despite the support of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The contamination arose from the use of water to cool nuclear reactors that melted down in the wake of the powerful tsunami that struck the Fukushima Daiichi plant in 2011.

While technology at the site can eliminate most harmful elements, it remains unable to filter out tritium, a radioactive hydrogen isotope deemed relatively harmless by Tepco due to its weak radiation emissions and minimal accumulation within the human body. Critics assert that insufficient long-term data prevents a definitive assessment of tritium’s impact on health and the environment.

Before the release, Tepco reported that the initial batch of discharged water would contain approximately 190 becquerels of tritium per liter, well below the World Health Organization’s drinking water limit of 10,000 becquerels per liter.

Japan maintains that the water, diluted with seawater and pumped into the Pacific through an undersea tunnel, is safe. This viewpoint received support from an IAEA safety review, which indicated that the release would yield a “negligible” radiological effect on people and the environment.

However, China remains unconvinced, denouncing the action as “selfish” and vowing to protect marine ecosystems, food safety, and public health. The state-run Global Times echoed these sentiments, cautioning that Japan’s decision could open a Pandora’s box with far-reaching ecological consequences. In response to the ban, China’s prohibitions on Japanese food and agricultural imports, initially implemented after the 2011 disaster, persist.



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