Tokyo has come under criticism from Beijing once again for its handling of the disposal of treated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Japan released its third batch of radioactive wastewater on Thursday, prompting China to condemn Tokyo’s “irresponsible” methods. The spokesperson for Beijing’s foreign ministry, Wang Wenbin, accused Japan of spreading the risk of contamination worldwide and questioned the credibility of Japan’s discharge plan. He also criticized Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) for their problematic internal management and habit of deceiving the public.
Since late August, Japan has been gradually releasing the equivalent of 540 Olympic-sized swimming pools of wastewater from the disabled Fukushima nuclear facility. This radioactive water had been used to cool reactors that went into meltdown after the devastating earthquakes and tsunami in 2011. However, these disposal methods have drawn condemnation from some members of the international community, including China and Russia. Both countries have banned imports of seafood from the region, citing concerns over potential environmental damage.
Despite the criticism, Japan maintains that the wastewater being released into the ocean poses no danger to the public. The government argues that the disposal process, which will take place over decades, will heavily dilute the water with seawater. In September, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supported Japan’s stance, stating that the discharge would cause no harm. However, Wang emphasized the need for Tokyo to address international concerns and engage in consultations with stakeholders, especially neighboring countries, to ensure responsible disposal.
The diplomatic dispute over the wastewater release has raised concerns about the future of seafood imports into China. Japan’s biggest trading partner could be affected by the ban on seafood imports from the region. This situation has particularly impacted scallop fishermen in the Hokkaido region, who relied on Chinese factories to process their catch.
As the release of contaminated wastewater continues, it remains to be seen how Japan will address the ongoing international criticism. The government will have to address concerns about potential environmental damage and work towards building trust and transparency in their disposal methods. The long-term consequences of this dispute could have broader implications for international relations and trade in the region.