Fish auction prices experienced a decline on Friday at a port located south of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Uncertainty lingers as to how seafood consumers will respond to the release of treated and diluted radioactive wastewater into the ocean.
The plant, which suffered damage during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, initiated the release of treated water into the Pacific on Thursday.
This action has spurred protests not only within the United States but also in neighboring countries. These protests contribute to the existing economic concerns, adding political and diplomatic pressures.
Hideaki Igari, a middleman at the Numanouchi fishing port, noted that flounder prices, known as Joban-mono in Fukushima, were over 10% lower during the Friday morning auction.
This auction marked the first occurrence following the commencement of the water release.
Fishing groups have been vocal in their opposition to the prolonged release, as neighboring countries also express their concerns.
China’s immediate response was to ban imports of Japanese seafood, thereby raising worries within the fishing industry and related businesses.
Inquiries to a citizens’ radiation testing center have increased, with more individuals contemplating submitting samples of food, water, and other items. The significance of radiation data has risen as a crucial determinant for deciding on dietary choices.
Japanese fishing groups harbor concerns that the release will further tarnish the reputation of Fukushima-area seafood. The effort to repair damage inflicted by the meltdown at the power plant after the earthquake and tsunami continues.
Igari expressed his thoughts following Friday’s auction, stating, “After years of struggle and stabilization in fish market prices, we now face this water challenge. Fisheries people fear a potential crash in fish prices and apprehensions about their livelihoods.”
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings and the Japanese government maintain that releasing the water is necessary to facilitate the decommissioning of the facility.
This step also prevents accidental leaks of inadequately treated water. Notably, a significant portion of tank-held water still surpasses permissible levels of radioactive substances.
Post-treatment, some wastewater is repurposed as coolant, while the remainder finds storage within roughly 1,000 tanks, filled to nearly 98% of their 1.37 million-ton capacity.
These tanks dominate a considerable portion of the complex and necessitate removal to accommodate the new facilities essential for the decommissioning process.
Authorities assert that after treatment and dilution, the treated wastewater will adhere to international safety standards, rendering it safer than required and with minimal environmental impact.
As per the power company, the initial seawater samples collected after the release were significantly below legally allowable levels on Friday.
Fukushima’s present catch stands at around one-fifth of its pre-disaster volume, attributed to a decrease in the number of fishermen and smaller catch sizes.
The government has allocated 80 billion yen ($550 million) to support fisheries and seafood processing, simultaneously launching campaigns to promote Fukushima’s Joban-mono and processed seafood.
Furthermore, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings has vowed to address reputational damage claims and individuals affected by China’s export ban appropriately.
Influenced by wholesalers and consumers in the Tokyo area, fish prices hold substantial sway. Flounder prices at the Friday auction at the Numanouchi port dropped from their usual level of approximately 3,500 yen ($24) per kilogram (2.2 pounds) to around 3,000 yen ($20), according to Igari, a middleman.
Assessing Safety Through Testing and Independent Data
Igari acknowledged that the discharge is disheartening but remains hopeful that meticulous testing can validate the safety of the fish. “Data serves as the best barometer from a consumer’s perspective concerning home food safety,” he emphasized.
At Mother’s Radiation Lab Fukushima in Iwaki, a testing center called Tarachine, water samples underwent evaluation. This included analyzing tritium levels for seawater collected off the Fukushima Daiichi plant before the release.
Ai Kimura, the lab’s director, indicated that anyone can bring in food, water, or even soil for testing, despite time constraints and significant backlogs at the lab. Kimura’s involvement stems from regret regarding insufficient protection for her daughters due to a lack of pre-disaster information.
Kimura underscores the importance of independent test results, not out of distrust for government data, but due to the lessons learned over the past 12 years. These lessons emphasize the value of testing to gather data essential for ensuring safe and nutritious food for families.
Varying perspectives on safety are apparent; some find government standards satisfactory, while others advocate for standards as close to zero as possible.
Kimura highlighted that the lab’s testing over recent years has demonstrated the safety of Fukushima fish, instilling her confidence in consuming local seafood without hesitation.
Aeon, a significant supermarket chain, has undertaken testing for cesium and iodine levels in fish. Plans have been unveiled to expand testing efforts to include tritium, a radionuclide inseparable from water.
Katsumasa Okawa, a fish store and restaurant owner, initially experienced slow business after the plant initiated the final steps of the treated water release.
However, he reported that his Yamako seafood restaurant appeared to operate normally on Friday, with customers frequenting during lunch.
Okawa expressed personal anticipation for the wastewater discharge as a pivotal move toward decommissioning the nuclear plant.
Source: abc NEWS