On Thursday, China suspended the import of aquatic products from Japan, including edible seafood, several hours after its neighbour began releasing treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Seafood exports from Japan to China include red sea bream, mackerel, and scallops, per Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
China is Japan’s largest fish importer, bringing in 71.7 billion yen of fish last year and 53.56 billion yen of molluscs and crustaceans, like scallops and crabs.
The discharge of the treated water was likely to start a little after 1 p.m. per Toyko time, per media reports citing the state-owned electricity major TEPCO.
China’s customs agency declared in its statement that this was to prevent the risk of radioactive pollution of food safety, safeguard the health of China’s consumers, and ensure the safety and security of imported food, per a Google translation.
The move extends a previous ban on imports from areas immediately surrounding the nuclear plant.
On Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency mentioned that it will have a full-fledged team to monitor the discharge and assess Japan’s application of international safety standards.
The IAEA will have its presence on the site as long as the treated water gets released, in line with Director General — Grossi’s strong commitment and dedication to the IAEA to collaborate with Japan on the discharge of ALPS-treated water after, before, and during the treated water discharges take place.
ALPS indicates the Advanced Liquid Processing System at Fukushima, which helps remove radioactive material from the wastewater before letting it out.
Tritium is the only radioactive element that cannot be gotten rid of from water. A spokesperson associated with Japan’s Embassy based in London mentioned that the water to be discharged is purified sufficiently via the ALPS until the concentration of radioactive material other than tritium is quite below the regulatory standard and then gets further diluted before it is successfully discharged.
On Tuesday, Fumio Kishida, Japan’s Prime Minister, said that the country planned to discharge about 1.3 million metric tons of treated wastewater — sufficient to cover about 500 Olympic-sized pools — from Fukushima. A massive tsunami and earthquake in March 2011 impaired the nuclear power plant on Japan’s east coast.
On Tuesday, China responded furiously, with Wang Wenbin, its Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, accusing Tokyo of being selfish and also irresponsible by pressing ahead with the disposal of the water, saying that the ocean must be treated as a common good for humanity and not as a sewer for Japanese nuclear-contaminated water.
Hong Kong also declared import curbs on some of Japan’s food products on Tuesday, with the city’s Chief Executive, John Lee, saying that he opposes wastewater discharge.
The IAEA mentioned in early July 2023 that Tokyo’s had been consistent with international standards and is expected to have negligible impact on humans and the environment.
South Korea mentioned in the past week that it respected the report of IAEA and that its analysis had discovered that the release is not going to have a meaningful impact on its waters, even though it also mentioned in a statement that it necessarily does not agree with or support the strategy to release polluted water.
References: CNBC, BBC, The Hindu, CNN
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