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China bans fish imports from Japan

The decision after the Fukushima water spill plan. South Korea also moving towards ban

25, Aug 2023

Japan has begun releasing treated radioactive water from the wreckage of the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean. The move immediately aroused controversy, so much so that the governor of Hong Kong called for the immediate application of cuts to food imports from Tokyo (see EFA News). Today comes the news that China is also willing to announce an immediate ban on all fish imports from Japan. "China is highly concerned about the risk of radioactive contamination borne by Japanese food and agricultural products exported to China," a Chinese customs official said.

Signed two years ago by the Japanese government and approved last month by the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the dumping is a key step, albeit a long and difficult one, in the process of dismantling the Fukushima Daiichi plant, destroyed by a tsunami in 2011.
The plant operator, Tepco, Tokyo electric power said the release began at 13:03 local time and that it has not identified any anomalies in the seawater pump or surrounding structures.

The news did not reassure anyone. China today reiterated its staunch opposition to the plan and said the Japanese government had failed to prove the legitimacy of the water dumping. "The Japanese side should not cause secondary harm to the local and even the world population for its own selfish interests," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a statement.

Tokyo has also criticized China for spreading "scientifically unfounded claims". Japan claims that the release of water is safe and that even the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has concluded that the impact on people and the environment is "negligible".

Japanese fishing groups, hit by years of reputational damage over radiation fears, have long opposed the plan: fears of a loss of exports to major markets have now been confirmed by a ban on imports. of China taken indefinitely. "Japanese fishing communities are feeling increasingly anxious to witness this moment, despite reassurances from the government," said the head of the Japan Fisheries Co-operative, Hiroshi Kishi, in a statement.

Japan exported about $600 million worth of aquatic products to China in 2022, making it the largest market for Japanese exports, with Hong Kong in second place. According to government data, sales to China and Hong Kong accounted for 42% of all Japanese exports of aquatic products in 2022.

South Korea has also been added to the list of no imports of Japanese fish products in the last few hours: South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo declared that the import bans on Fukushima fish and food products "will remain in force until until public concern has eased."

As far as the spill plan is concerned, the water will initially be released in smaller portions and with additional controls: the first discharge, for a total of 7,800 cubic metres, the equivalent of about three Olympic swimming pools of water, will take place in the about 17 days. Tepco predicts that the process of releasing wastewater currently amounting to more than 1.3 million tons will take about 30 years. According to the results of Tepco's own tests just published, the water contains about 63 becquerels (the unit of measurement of the activity of radioactive substances that has replaced the curie) of tritium per litre, below the limit of 10,000 becquerels. per liter set by the World Health Organization for drinking water.

The IAEA also released a statement saying its independent on-site analysis confirmed that the tritium concentration is well below the limit. Japan, confirmed Environment Minister Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, will conduct monitoring around the water release area and publish the results weekly, starting next Sunday.

Civic groups have launched protests in Japan and South Korea, although the South Korean government said its assessment found no problems with the scientific and technical aspects of the release.
South Korean police have arrested at least 14 protesters who entered the Japanese embassy in Seoul. "The Fukushima nuclear disaster is not over. Only about 1 percent of the water will be released this time," said Jun Iizuka, one of the protesters. From now on, we will continue to fight to stop the long-term discharge of contaminated water."

Rome, RM, Italy, 08/24/2023 10:02
EFA News - European Food Agency

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