Aug 24: China announced Thursday it was banning all seafood from Japan in response to Tokyo’s decision to begin releasing treated radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant, dramatically escalating an already tense feud between the two neighbours.
The release is part of a controversial plan that has met fierce objections from many consumers as well as some regional countries, with Beijing leading that criticism
The start of the release on Thursday afternoon sparked a fiery tirade from China which described the operation as a “selfish and irresponsible act.”
China’s customs department then announced it would stop importing all aquatic products originating from Japan – meaning the ban could potentially limit other oceanic products besides seafood such as sea salt and seaweed.
The move was aimed at preventing “the risk of radioactive contamination of food safety caused by Japan’s Fukushima nuclear contaminated water discharge,” and to protect the health of Chinese consumers, the customs department said in its statement.
Japan has argued throughout the building controversy that discharging the treated water is safe and urgently needed to free up space at the crippled nuclear power plant.
The discharge began at 1 p.m. local time (midnight ET), according to state-owned electricity firm Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).
The company said it expects to discharge only around 200 or 210 cubic meters of treated wastewater. From Friday, it plans to then continuously release 456 cubic meters of treated wastewater over a 24-hour period and a total of 7,800 cubic meters over a 17-day period.
TEPCO said that the operation would be suspended immediately and an investigation conducted if any abnormalities were detected in the discharge equipment or the dilution levels of the treated wastewater.
It will send a boat later Thursday into the harbour to collect samples to monitor and ensure the discharged treated wastewater meets international safety standards.
Japan’s devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused water within the Fukushima nuclear plant to be contaminated with highly radioactive material. Since then, new water has been pumped in to cool fuel debris in the reactors, while ground and rainwater have leaked in, creating more radioactive wastewater.
The plan to release the water has been in the works for years, with authorities warning in 2019 that space was running out to store the material and they had “no other options” but to release it in a treated and highly diluted form.