US Buying Fukushima Fish That’s Banned In Other Countries

Last month Japan last month released treated contaminated radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the Pacific Ocean for the fifth time.

As well as scientists and environmental organizations, local fishing groups, residents, and neighboring countries have opposed the discharges, raising concerns about the contaminated water’s effects on human and environmental health.

Yet despite scientists warning that the water is a threat to human health and the environment, the US has committed to buying seafood from Japan.

The Defender reports: in an attempt to allay those concerns, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida last Septemer, following the first discharge, released a video clip of himself eating Fukushima fish, which he called “safe and delicious.”

And Japan’s economic minister, Yasutoshi Nishimura, ate sashimi in Tokyo for the news cameras. “It’s really the best!” he said, The New York Times reported.

That didn’t stop China, Russia and South Korea from banning the import of Japanese seafood, over concerns about radioactive contamination.

But the U.S. took a different tack. In October 2023, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel announced the U.S. military would buy bulk Japanese seafood for service members stationed at military bases in Japan and explore more broadly how to help offset China’s ban on Japan’s seafood.

Emanual said the contract between Japanese fisheries and the U.S. armed forces would be long-term. It began by purchasing a metric ton of scallops with plans to expand eventually to all types of seafood.

He said the U.S. was also in talks with Japanese authorities to direct locally caught scallops to U.S.-registered processors and said the U.S. would look at its overall fish imports from Japan and China.

About a month before the announcement the Japanese embassy hosted a sushi-tasting event at the U.S. Capitol to protest China’s decision to ban Japanese seafood.

Enough radioactive water to fill 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), owner of Fukushima Daiichi, last year initiated periodic releases of large amounts of wastewater accumulated at the plant since the massive earthquake and tsunami that caused the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The earthquake destroyed the plant’s cooling system. Since then, TEPCO has been pumping in water to cool the reactor core’s fuel rods. That water becomes contaminated with highly radioactive material.

That radioactive water is stored in tanks, which now hold about 1.3 million metric tons of water — enough to fill 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Japan said it is running out of storage space for the water and needs the land where the tanks sit to build facilities that will allow the company to safely decommission the plant.

TEPCO began filtering most radioactive material out of the water and releasing it after the United Nations (U.N.) International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in July 2023 determined TEPCO’s discharge plan met its international safety standards and would have only a “negligible” effect on humans and the environment.

Before the IAEA’s approval, the National Association of Marine Laboratories, made up of the 100 most prestigious institutions in the U.S., in 2022 called for the discharge plan to be suspended.

The National Association of Marine Laboratories, Greenpeace and many others who oppose the water release argue the risks haven’t been properly assessed and that TEPCO hasn’t presented enough data to determine the safety of the release.

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