Japan started releasing treated radioactive water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean on Thursday, a polarizing move that prompted China to announce an immediate blanket ban on all aquatic products from Japan.
China is “highly concerned about the risk of radioactive contamination brought by… Japan’s food and agricultural products,” the customs bureau said in a statement.
The Japanese government signed off on the plan two years ago and it was given a green light by the U.N. nuclear watchdog last month. The discharge is a key step in decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi plant after it was destroyed by a tsunami in 2011.
The BBC reports:
China, which has been the most vocal of opponents since the plan was announced two years ago, called the water discharge an “extremely selfish and irresponsible act” and said Japan was “passing an open wound onto the future generations of humanity”.
Shortly afterwards, China’s customs office announced that an existing ban on seafood imports from Fukushima and some prefectures would be immediately extended to cover the whole of Japan to “protect the health of Chinese consumers”.
The move is calculated to inflict economic damage, and Japan has admitted that businesses will take a “significant” hit. Mainland China and Hong Kong together import more than $1.1bn (£866m) of seafood from Japan every year – making up nearly half of Japan’s seafood exports.
After the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, several reactors melted down at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. To avert further disaster, workers flooded the reactors with water, and that water quickly became highly contaminated.
The plant is now offline and the reactors are defunct, but they still need to be cooled, which is why waste water continues to accumulate. In the years since the accident, groundwater has also filtered into the site, and some of it has become contaminated as well.
Dealing with all this radioactive water has been a huge technical challenge for the Japanese Government. Currently, some 350 million gallons are being stored in more than one thousand tanks on site, according to Japanese authorities. The tanks are nearing capacity and the site can’t fit any more, so some of the water needs to be released, according to the government.
The Associated Press reports:
The Japanese government and TEPCO say the water must be released to make room for the plant’s decommissioning and to prevent accidental leaks. They say the treatment and dilution will make the wastewater safer than international standards and its environmental impact will be negligibly small.
Tony Hooker, director of the Center for Radiation Research, Education, Innovation at the University of Adelaide, said the water released from the Fukushima plant is safe. “It certainly is well below the World Health Organization drinking water guidelines,” he said. “It’s safe.”
The pump activated Thursday afternoon sent the first batch of the diluted, treated water from a mixing pool to a secondary pool 10 minutes later. It then moves through a connected undersea tunnel to go out 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) off the coast
BREAKING: China has banned seafood imports from Japan after the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant began releasing treated radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean.
Japanese fisher groups had opposed the plan fearing damage to their livelihoods. https://t.co/Jg4fA4mM0k
— The Associated Press (@AP) August 24, 2023