U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, embraced the local fishing industry of Fukushima by enjoying seafood, showcasing his support amid China and South Korea’s opposition to the treated nuclear wastewater release. Emanuel dismissed their concerns as a form of economic pressure rather than a genuine threat.
Speaking to journalists during a media gathering at a supermarket, Emanuel highlighted the importance of qualities like scientific rigor, international collaboration, and transparency, referencing the COVID crisis. He cleverly suggested that if Chinese President Xi could confidently dine on fish from China’s nuclear plant vicinity, then he could extend the same courtesy to visiting leaders like Putin.
Formerly the mayor of Chicago, Emanuel visited Soma, a city in Fukushima prefecture, following the initiation of the long-term wastewater discharge plan. Experts have clarified that this endeavor would span decades to complete. This initiative stems from the need to create space for additional facilities essential for decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which suffered a triple-meltdown disaster in 2011 due to an earthquake and tsunami.
The Fukushima plant is persistently generating wastewater due to the presence of melted fuel debris within the reactor, necessitating continuous cooling. Only after the removal of this material can the production of wastewater cease. The treated wastewater, deemed less hazardous, is stored on-site in tanks that have exhausted all available space. Despite efforts, tritium has been leaking into Fukushima’s groundwater since 2013, with the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) annually pumping out the contaminated groundwater.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, along with three cabinet ministers, publicly demonstrated their confidence in the safety of Fukushima’s food by consuming seafood and rice from the region during a lunch meeting. Economy and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura emphasized the importance of substantiating safety with scientific evidence and spreading this information globally.
In response to Tokyo’s announcement about the wastewater release plan, Beijing swiftly imposed a ban on Japanese seafood imports. South Korea also criticized the plan, while Japanese fishermen expressed concerns about the long-lasting impact on their products’ desirability. Emanuel firmly reiterated U.S. support for Japan’s strategy and suggested that the U.S. might back Tokyo if it pursued a formal complaint against China’s seafood import ban at the World Trade Organization.
Emanuel, apart from his lunch meeting with Soma’s mayor, bought seafood from a local supermarket, intending to serve it to his children during their weekend visit. His purchases included fruits, flounder, and sea bass – all sourced from Fukushima. He assured the Associated Press in a phone interview during his return to Tokyo that he wouldn’t serve anything he believed was problematic as a father.
The ongoing discharge rate indicates that by March 2024, around 31,200 tons of treated water will have been released from the plant. This effort will free up merely 10 out of the 1,000 storage tanks since wastewater production persists. Officials estimate that 30% of the tanks will empty by the end of the first decade, with the pace of discharge accelerating during that period.