China Vows Action Over ‘Selfish’ Japan’s Nuclear Wastewater Plan

China vowed to take “necessary steps” to safeguard food safety and the marine environment after Japan set a date to begin flushing treated nuclear wastewater from the Fukushima site into the Pacific Ocean.

(Bloomberg) — China vowed to take “necessary steps” to safeguard food safety and the marine environment after Japan set a date to begin flushing treated nuclear wastewater from the Fukushima site into the Pacific Ocean.

“This act blatantly transfers the risk of nuclear pollution to neighboring countries, including China and the international community,” China’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sun Weidong said in a statement. “It is extremely selfish and irresponsible. China expresses serious concern and strong opposition.”

Beijing, which has criticized Japan’s proposal as unsafe and questioned the accuracy of its testing regime, “will take necessary measures to firmly safeguard the marine environment, food safety and public health,” if the water releases go ahead as planned from Thursday, he said.

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who on Tuesday confirmed plans to start the wastewater releases, is preparing to meet with China’s Premier Li Qiang next month, NTV reported.  

Read More: How Japan Will Release Its Nuclear Wastewater Into the Pacific

China’s retaliation threatens agricultural and seafood purchases from Japan, which totaled about 278 billion yen ($1.9 billion) last year. Hong Kong, which imported about 209 billion yen worth of the goods, on Wednesday confirmed it will extend import curbs on products from seafood to seaweed from some areas.

Hong Kong’s Michelin-starred Godenya previously said it would seek alternative suppliers for key ingredients sourced from Japan, and new trade curbs will threaten to crimp sales for Japan’s major seafood producers. 

Maruha Nichiro Corp., which wins about 5% of revenue from destinations in Asia outside its domestic market, and Nishimoto Co., which generates around 8% of sales outside of Japan, North American and Europe, both declined as much as 0.9% in Wednesday trading. 

Seafood suppliers outside Japan jumped. South Korea-based Sajo Seafood Co. surged as much as 28% and Dahu Aquaculture Co. rose as much as 10% in China. Producers of sea salt and related products have also gained on the news, including Insan Inc. Consumers in South Korea — where sea salt is crucial in the preparation of kimchi — have moved to stockpile the condiment ahead of the water release.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. is preparing to begin a process to release about 1.3 million cubic meters of wastewater — equivalent in volume to about 500 Olympic-size swimming pools — from the Fukushima site over a period of at least 30 years. The waste has been generated in part as the utility works to cool wrecked reactors following the 2011 meltdown that ranks as the world’s worst atomic accident since Chernobyl.

Kishida has rejected China’s complaints over the safety of the strategy and pointed to a two-year review by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which concluded there would be a negligible impact on people and the environment.

Japan’s process will remove almost all radionuclides from the wastewater, aside from tritium — a naturally occurring form of hydrogen. The Pacific Ocean contains about 8,400 grams of pure tritium, and Japan’s proposal would add around 0.06 grams each year, according to Nigel Marks, an expert on radioactive waste and an associate professor at Curtin University in Perth. 

“The minuscule amount of extra radiation won’t make the tiniest jot of difference,” Marks said in a statement. “A lifetime’s worth of seafood caught a few kilometers from the ocean outlet has the tritium radiation equivalent of one bite of a banana.”

Japan’s ambassador to China, Hideo Tarumi, who was summoned for talks with Sun, criticized Beijing for making what he claimed are unsupported claims and offered to continue talks on the issue. It’s unacceptable for China to tighten curbs on Japanese food products if not based on scientific evidence, Japan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s party, which sees no issue in Japan’s plan, accused the nation’s opposition of stoking protests on the issue to stir anti-Japanese sentiment. 

–With assistance from Shoko Oda, Kevin Ding, Shinhye Kang and April Ma.

(Updates to add details on share price moves, reaction in South Korea from seventh paragraph.)

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