Since the scheduled discharge of treated wastewater from Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Plant began on Aug. 24, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities have imposed a sweeping ban on Japanese seafood imports to China.
The action ignited a firestorm of protests against the water release across various platforms, where media outlets and social commentators in China have widely condemned Japan. The situation is further inflamed by heightened anti-Japanese sentiment, manifested in harassing phone calls to Japanese locales like Tokyo and Fukushima.
In a unified response, Japanese diplomats, politicians, and media organizations are voicing their concerns en masse. Their collective message urges China to provide accurate information about the discharge, prosecute those responsible for harassment, and immediately lift what Japan deems an “unreasonable” ban on Japanese seafood products.
The Japanese embassy in Beijing has revealed that ever since the treated water’s discharge began, harassment towards Japanese parties has escalated. Activities planned at the embassy have been postponed due to a deluge of hostile phone calls originating from China.
Reports from Asahi TV on Aug. 26 indicated that hotels in Tokyo and Fukushima have also been plagued by harassing calls from China. Disturbing queries from callers have included questions such as, “Have you tasted the contaminated water? How does it taste? Are you still alive?” Some went as far as to express, “We look forward to Mount Fuji erupting so you can all perish with it.”
Japanese nationals residing in China have also faced their share of intimidation. In one instance, a patron at a Japanese restaurant in Guangzhou brazenly threatened to report the establishment to authorities if it used ingredients sourced from Japan.
On the diplomatic front, Namazu Hiroyuki, the director-general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, conveyed Japan’s formal complaint to Yang Yu, China’s Deputy Ambassador to Japan. In a phone call, Mr. Hiroyuki expressed “profound regret and concern” over China’s actions regarding the release of Fukushima’s treated wastewater. He appealed for public calm within China and sought assurance for the safety of Japanese citizens and its diplomatic premises. Mr. Hiroyuki also pressed for the Chinese government to disseminate factual information concerning the treated nuclear water.
Kunihiko Miyake, a diplomatic commentator and participant in Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat, noted on a television program that the CCP appears to be seeking “political concessions” from Japan. Mr. Miyake warned, “The more China acts in this manner, the more Japan will strengthen its alliances with the United States and South Korea—precisely the opposite effect China would want. Despite knowing they’re digging their own diplomatic grave, the CCP continues its aggressive rhetoric.”
Koichi Hagiuda, head of the Policy Research Council of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, strongly criticized the situation, stating, “The decision to halt Japanese seafood imports should be based on scientific evidence, not political maneuvering.”
On Aug. 27, Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry, emphasized the importance of transparency in an interview with NHK. “We’ve already released data for the past two days, revealing tritium levels that are even below detectable limits,” he said. He added that Japan has “strongly urged the CCP to lift the ban immediately and act based on scientific evidence.”
In a bold move on Aug. 26, the major Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun published an editorial accusing the CCP of “ignoring science and wielding political pressure over Japan.” The piece argued that the CCP’s effort to sow discord within Japan arose from Japan’s closer ties with the United States on issues like Taiwan and semiconductor export controls.
“China is out of step with the international community. Even the European Union, along with nations like Norway and Switzerland, have started to lift their import bans on Japanese food items,” the editorial noted.
Major publication Asahi Shimbun also weighed in on Aug. 26, lambasting the CCP for “unjustifiable threats” and “weaponizing its market to exert economic pressure.” The editorial warned that such tactics could endanger China’s economic security and become a major talking point at the forthcoming G7 summit.
Sankei Shimbun joined the chorus of criticism, calling for the CCP to “cease its scientifically unfounded actions.” The paper praised Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for demanding an immediate lift of the ban. It also highlighted the risks of “China’s contradictory stance perpetuating the spread of unscientific rumors.”
Similarly, Mainichi Shimbun’s editorial on the same day criticized the ban as a breach of trade regulations that is not rooted in scientific evidence. The paper also took issue with China’s refusal to engage in expert-level discussions, suggesting that this refusal has diplomatic motives linked to semiconductor exports and the Taiwan situation.
“To compel China to reverse the ban, Prime Minister Kishida needs to ramp up diplomatic efforts,” the editorial concluded.
In the aftermath of a devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011, Japan faced an unprecedented challenge at its Fukushima nuclear plant. Three reactors were severely compromised, necessitating an infusion of seawater for cooling. Rather than discharging the contaminated water immediately into the ocean, Japan opted for a more responsible approach: storage and treatment.
Over the years, approximately 1.34 million tons of radioactive liquid have accumulated, putting a strain on available storage space. Recognizing this challenge, the Japanese government initiated discussions in 2016, ultimately deciding in April 2021 to discharge the water after dilution.
To bolster domestic and international confidence, Japan has undertaken a robust campaign of transparent communication, thorough scientific validations, and international oversight. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is actively involved in supervising, auditing, and certifying the water discharge process.
The treatment and discharge of Fukushima’s stored water adhere to a meticulous four-stage protocol: processing, measurement, dilution, and discharge. Initially, the water undergoes Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) treatment to reduce all radioactive elements, except for tritium, to levels below regulatory standards. Subsequently, the water is diluted with seawater by more than a hundredfold to ensure the tritium concentration does not exceed 1,500 becquerels per liter (Bq/L).
It’s worth noting that Japan’s stringent standards make the regulated radiation limit for tritium just 1,500 Bq/L—significantly below the World Health Organization’s threshold of 10,000 Bq/L for drinking water.
Following treatment and dilution, the water is released into the sea through an underground piping system located a kilometer away from the Fukushima plant. A battery of three tests is performed prior to discharge, and any failure to meet the operational target necessitates additional purification.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company oversees the entire water release operation, deploying four 24/7 monitoring systems that track water levels and tritium concentrations. To date, all systems are functioning within expectations.
After the discharge, water samples are collected from 10 points within a 3-kilometer radius of the nearshore to monitor tritium levels. If the concentration surpasses 700 Bq/L, the operation is halted immediately.
Moreover, data released by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment on Aug. 27 demonstrated that all sample locations had tritium concentrations well below detectable limits, confirming that there have been no adverse impact on human health or the environment. This is corroborated by the Japanese Fisheries Agency, which revealed that no detectable levels of tritium were found in fish caught near the Fukushima Daiichi plant.