Japan PM's desperate sushi stunt to show Fukushima water is safe: What you need to know

Over a decade after Fukushima's catastrophic nuclear disaster, wastewater is finally being released into the Pacific.

To show the water near Japan's Fukushima nuclear site is safe Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has eaten a piece of fish caught in the area where radioactive wastewater has begun being released into the ocean.

🗣️ What you need to know

  • In 2011, Fukushima's Daiichi nuclear power plant was destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami that killed 20,000.

  • Having collected contaminated water since the tragedy, it now has enough to fill 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

  • This week, 12 years since the disaster, the wastewater has officially begun being released into the North Pacific Ocean.

  • Over 60 radioactive substances have been removed, but the water still contains negligible amounts of tritium and carbon-14 which are hard to seperate.

  • China has banned fish caught near where the wastewater is being released, while other countries have threatened similar action. Kishida is under increased political pressure to protect Japan's $924 million seafood export industry.

Japanese PM Fumio Kishida is seen eating sashimi beside an image of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Japanese PM Fumio Kishida "proving" the Fukushima fish is safe to eat. Source: Getty.

🗣️ What they said

Japanese PM Fumio Kishida: "This is very good," the leader said after chowing down a mouthful of raw flounder, calling on the country, and those around the world to enjoy the "safe and delicious" fish caught from the region.

Professor Nigel Marks at Curtin University in Perth: "At first, this sounds like a terrible idea, but in fact, it is sensible and safe. Similar releases have occurred around the world for decades, and nothing bad has ever happened."

Hiroshi Kohata, the mayor of Fukushima revealed locals had been bombarded with "harassment" from their Chinese neighbours in the wake of the release, with the city's town hall alone attracting 200 calls in just 48 hours. “Many of them are from +86 (China’s country code) and are in Chinese,” he said.

Shaun Burnie, Greenpeace East Asia: “Instead of engaging in an honest debate about this reality, the Japanese government has opted for a false solution – decades of deliberate radioactive pollution of the marine environment.”

💬 Conversation starter

Minutes after the Japanese PM's sushi stunt, eagle-eyed Simpsons fans drew an interesting comparison.

They pointed out that in an episode that aired in 1990, Bart served nuclear power plant owner Mr Burns a three-eyed fish mutated by radioactive wastewater. It's the latest in a long list of bizarrely accurate predictions the Simpsons creators have made over the years.

❗It's hard to believe, but...

If you ate seafood from close to the release site for the rest of your life, the tritium radiation you’d absorb would be around the same as taking a bite from a banana.

🗳 What do you think

⏭️ So what next?

One million metric tonnes of treated water will be released from the plant gradually over the 30 years.

While the US has thrown its support behind Japan, and Taiwan has conceded the amount of tritium being released will have a “minimal” impact, China and some Pacific Islands have been vocal in their opposition.

China and Hong Kong have already urged residents to stop eating Japanese products.

🗞️ For more about the Fukushima wastewater saga

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