Fukushima Wastewater Released Into the Ocean, China Bans All Japanese Seafood

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, damaged by a massive March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, is seen from the nearby Ukedo fishing port in Namie town, northeastern Japan, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, damaged by a massive March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, is seen from the nearby Ukedo fishing port in Namie town, northeastern Japan, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
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Fukushima Wastewater Released Into the Ocean, China Bans All Japanese Seafood

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, damaged by a massive March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, is seen from the nearby Ukedo fishing port in Namie town, northeastern Japan, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, damaged by a massive March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, is seen from the nearby Ukedo fishing port in Namie town, northeastern Japan, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Japan started releasing treated radioactive water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean on Thursday, a polarizing move that prompted China to announce an immediate blanket ban on all aquatic products from Japan.
China is "highly concerned about the risk of radioactive contamination brought by... Japan's food and agricultural products," the customs bureau said in a statement.
The Japanese government signed off on the plan two years ago and it was given a green light by the U.N. nuclear watchdog last month. The discharge is a key step in decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi plant after it was destroyed by a tsunami in 2011.
Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said the release began at 1:03 p.m. local time (0403 GMT) and it had not identified any abnormalities.
However, China reiterated its firm opposition to the plan and said the Japanese government had not proved that the water discharged would be safe.
"The Japanese side should not cause secondary harm to the local people and even the people of the world out of its own selfish interests," its foreign ministry said in a statement.
Tokyo has in turn criticized China for spreading "scientifically unfounded claims."
It maintains the water release is safe, noting that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has also concluded that the impact it would have on people and the environment was "negligible."
Japan's Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters that the government would strongly request China to lift its import ban on aquatic products.
Japan exported about $600 million worth of aquatic products to China in 2022, making it the biggest market for Japanese exports, with Hong Kong second. Sales to China and Hong Kong accounted for 42% of all Japanese aquatic exports in 2022, according to government data.
China customs did not give details on the specific aquatic products impacted by the ban and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Online retailers in parts of China ran out of salt on Thursday after Japan began discharging the wastewater.

Several brands of salt were sold out on online food delivery sites in the coastal province of Fujian as well as in parts of Beijing and the commercial capital of Shanghai, according to media reports and Reuters tests.
"It's really not necessary to hoard salt, but when I saw loads of people panic-buying this morning, I quietly ordered 10 packets," wrote one user on the microblogging platform Weibo.
"I bought lake salt and salt from salt mines. I now avoid sea salt."
Shelves in one Beijing supermarket had been stripped of salt, social media pictures showed, while media said shares in some Chinese saltwater purification firms surged as much as a tenth.



Ukraine Realizes a Dream as It Launches EU Membership Talks, but Joining Is Likely to Take Years

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Olga Stefanishyna (6-L, front row) poses with European affairs ministers and representatives at the first meeting of the Conference on Accession of Ukraine to the European Union in Luxembourg, 25 June 2024. (EPA)
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Olga Stefanishyna (6-L, front row) poses with European affairs ministers and representatives at the first meeting of the Conference on Accession of Ukraine to the European Union in Luxembourg, 25 June 2024. (EPA)
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Ukraine Realizes a Dream as It Launches EU Membership Talks, but Joining Is Likely to Take Years

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Olga Stefanishyna (6-L, front row) poses with European affairs ministers and representatives at the first meeting of the Conference on Accession of Ukraine to the European Union in Luxembourg, 25 June 2024. (EPA)
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Olga Stefanishyna (6-L, front row) poses with European affairs ministers and representatives at the first meeting of the Conference on Accession of Ukraine to the European Union in Luxembourg, 25 June 2024. (EPA)

The European Union launched membership talks with Ukraine on Tuesday, a decade after Russian troops seized the Crimean Peninsula to deter the country from moving closer to the West, part of a chain of events that set the two neighbors on the path to war.

Ukraine’s accession negotiations were set in motion at an intergovernmental conference in Luxembourg. Moldova is also due to launch its membership talks later Tuesday. While the events are a major milestone on their European paths, the talks could take years to conclude.

In opening remarks presented via video-link, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal described it as “a historic day” that marks “a new chapter” in his country’s ties with the bloc, particularly as the war with Russia rages on.

“We fully understand that there is still much work ahead of us on the path to accession. We are ready for it. We have demonstrated that we can move swiftly and achieve the impossible,” Shmyhal said.

Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, described it as “a historic moment for us all, and marks a milestone in our relationship.”

Lahbib said the EU condemns “Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine and salutes the resilience of the Ukrainian people,” and added that the bloc will continue to support Ukraine in the war “for as long as it takes and as intensely as needed.”

Ukraine's delegation was led in Luxembourg by deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration Olga Stefanishyna. “This is a truly historical moment for my country. All the nation stands as one behind this decision,” she told reporters as she arrived for the ceremony.

Stefanishyna said the hope embodied in the opening of the talks will give Ukraine's citizens “the moral power to continue withstanding” the Russian invasion.

The intergovernmental conference officially started the process of aligning the country’s laws and standards with those of the 27-nation bloc, which is notably concerned about corruption in Ukraine. However, the actual negotiations are unlikely to begin for a few months.

Both Ukraine and Moldova applied to join the EU in the days and weeks after Russia invaded in February 2022. By June 2022, EU leaders had quickly made it all official. But things have moved more slowly since then for Kyiv and membership, if it comes, might be years away.

Türkiye's accession talks have lasted almost two decades without result.

Still, starting the talks process is sending another strong signal of solidarity with Ukraine beyond the financial support the EU has provided, which officials estimate at around 100 billion euros ($107 billion). It’s also a show of support for Moldova, which has faced its own challenges with Russia.

Candidate countries must bring their laws and standards into line with those of the EU in 35 policy areas, known as chapters, ranging from the free movement of goods through fisheries, taxation, energy and the environment to judicial rights and security.

Unanimous agreement must be given by all 27 member countries to open or close chapters, providing ample opportunity for EU nations to demand more work or to delay proceedings.

Hungary, which takes over the EU’s rotating presidency from Belgium in July, has routinely put the brakes on EU and NATO support for Ukraine.

“We are still at the beginning of the screening process. It’s very difficult to say at what stage Ukraine is in. From what I see here, as we speak, they are very far from meeting the accession criteria,” Hungarian Minister for European Affairs Janos Boka said as he arrived at the venue.

Bordering EU members Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, Ukraine would overtake France to become the largest member of the bloc if it joined, shifting its center of gravity further eastward. As a top grain producer its entry would have a huge impact on EU agriculture policy.

Together with Moldova, Ukraine stands in a long line of EU hopefuls — Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Türkiye — with years-long membership aspirations and which have felt left behind by Kyiv’s rapid progress.

Ukraine wants to join by 2030, but it must carry out dozens of institutional and legal reforms first. That daunting list is led by steps to combat corruption and includes broad reforms to public administration and judiciary.