China puts ban on seafood in response to Fukushima wastewater

In a strongly worded statement, China calls Japan 'selfish.'
Sejal Sharma
Fukushima nuclear plant
Fukushima nuclear plant


China announced today that it has suspended the import of aquatic products and edible aquatic animals from Japan due to the country’s decision to release the treated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the oceans.

China, in a statement, said that the step has been taken “in order to comprehensively prevent the risk of radioactive contamination of food safety caused by the discharge of Fukushima nuclear contaminated water into the sea, protect the health of Chinese consumers, and ensure the safety of imported food…”

Big blow to the fishing community

China’s suspension comes on the same day the Fukushima nuclear plant began the release of the 1 million tons of tainted water it's holding in 1,000 massive tanks – enough to fill 500 Olympic-size pools.

“The Fukushima nuclear accident which took place 12 years ago was a major catastrophe that already caused the leakage of large amounts of radioactive substances into the ocean,” said a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry in a statement

“There could be a man-made secondary disaster to the local people and the whole world if Japan chooses to dump the water into the ocean just to serve Japan’s selfish interests,” further said the statement.

TEPCO, the company that operated the plant, pumped a small quantity of water into the Pacific via an undersea tunnel on Thursday. The water is reportedly being diluted first with seawater before being released.

Interesting Engineering reported on Tuesday that although the water has been treated using an Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) to remove 62 types of radioactive materials, the treated water still contains tritium, which rests at the center of the controversy.

Tritium is a radioactive substance that is too weak to penetrate the skin but can increase the risk of cancer if consumed in extremely large quantities. The ALPS could remove tritium and Tepco has said that it is diluting the treated water with seawater to meet the concentration levels as stipulated by Japan and other countries’ regulatory standards for radioactive materials in the water.

Tepco’s procedures have been under the purview of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which said that the impact the treated water would have on people and the environment would be "negligible."

But people aren’t convinced

China’s ban on seafood imports has further angered the fishing industry in Japan, who say that this will affect their livelihood and reputation. Given China’s ban, the fishing community was right on their money since this would impact their revenues.

The water release is expected to take about 30-40 years. That’s a long time for the fishing community to wait around for things to normalize.

More opposition from neighbors

The Guardian reported that 14 protestors were arrested Thursday by the South Korean police who entered the building housing the Japanese embassy in Seoul. This comes a month after South Korea said that it respected the results of the review undertaken by the IAEA.

“TEPCO shall steadily move forward with the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and treated water countermeasures while prioritizing safety as we fulfill our "responsibilities to Fukushima" and enable the region to recover,” said TEPCO in a statement released on August 22.

Catastrophe struck the shores of Japan on March 11, 2011, when an earthquake and tsunami shook and caused severe damage to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. What followed was years and years of TEPCO trying to cool the three nuclear reactors that had melted down as a result.

TEPCO, along with the Japanese government, has been trying to decommission the plant, and releasing the treated water into the oceans is a vital step in that direction.

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