Fukushima nuclear wastewater release raises concerns, causing market volatility and trade issues.


Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant has begun releasing treated radioactive wastewater, despite safety claims and opposition from China. This move has affected global markets, sparking concerns over trade uncertainties.

On Thursday, Japan began releasing treated radioactive wastewater from its Fukushima nuclear power plant, drawing sharp criticism from China, which called it "selfish and irresponsible behavior." Japan argues that the discharge of treated water is safe and urgently needed to free up space at the damaged nuclear power plant.

This action is part of a highly controversial plan that has faced strong opposition from many consumers and some regional countries.

According to Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), Japan began today to release an estimated 200 to 210 cubic meters of treated nuclear wastewater. Starting Friday, they plan to continuously discharge 456 cubic meters of treated wastewater over 24 hours, totaling 7,800 cubic meters over 17 days.

TEPCO stated that it will immediately pause operations and investigate if any anomalies are detected in the discharge equipment or the dilution levels of the treated wastewater.

The company will send a ship into the harbor later on Thursday to collect samples to monitor and ensure that the discharged treated wastewater meets international safety standards.

The devastating earthquake and tsunami of 2011 in Japan contaminated the water inside the Fukushima nuclear power plant with highly radioactive materials. Since then, new water has been injected to cool the fuel residue in the reactors, while groundwater and rainwater seeping in have generated more radioactive wastewater.

The plan to release the wastewater has been years in the making, with authorities warning in 2019 that the space for storing this material was running out, leaving them no choice but to release it in a treated and highly diluted form.

While some governments have expressed support for Japan, others strongly oppose the discharge of nuclear wastewater, with many Asian consumers stockpiling salt and seafood out of concern for future pollution.

The United States has expressed support for Japan's actions. However, China and Pacific Island nations strongly oppose the wastewater discharge, believing it could have widespread effects on the region and internationally, possibly threatening human health and the marine environment.

China's customs department earlier this summer banned food imports from Fukushima and nine other regions. This week, Hong Kong, China, confirmed it will ban food product imports from certain areas of Japan in response to the nuclear wastewater discharge.

Starting Thursday, all live, frozen, chilled, dried, or other preserved seafood, sea salt, and untreated or treated seaweed will be prohibited from import from cities including the capital Tokyo, Fukushima, Chiba, and Tochigi.

According to Reuters, Hong Kong is the second-largest export market for Japanese marine products overseas, after mainland China. Despite opposition, Japan insists that its plan is safe.

For years, nuclear wastewater has been treated to filter out all removable harmful elements and then stored in tanks. According to Tokyo Electric Power Company, most of the water undergoes a secondary treatment.

When the nuclear wastewater is finally discharged, it will be mixed with clear water to ensure it contains only very low concentrations of radioactive material. It will be released into the Pacific Ocean through a seabed tunnel approximately 1 kilometer (0.62 miles) offshore.

The discharge process will be monitored by a third party both during and after the release, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the United Nations nuclear watchdog. Staff from the IAEA will be stationed at its newly established Fukushima office and will continue monitoring the situation over the next few years.

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