Russia explores possibility of joining China in banning Japanese seafood imports over Fukushima water release


27th September 2023 – (Moscow) Following Japan’s decision to release treated radioactive water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea, Russia is considering joining China in imposing a ban on Japanese seafood imports. The move comes as Moscow seeks talks with Japan regarding the matter, as stated by a Russian food safety regulator on Tuesday.

Last month, Japan began releasing water from the Fukushima plant into the ocean, a move that drew strong criticism from China. In response, China implemented a comprehensive ban on all aquatic imports from Japan. Taking note of the potential risks of radiation contamination, Russia’s food safety watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor, has engaged in discussions with its Chinese counterparts regarding Japanese food exports.

In a statement, Rosselkhoznadzor said, “Taking into account the possible risks of radiation contamination of products, Rosselkhoznadzor is considering the possibility of joining with Chinese restrictions on supplies of fish products from Japan. The final decision will be made after negotiations with the Japanese side.”

Russia, a major supplier of marine products to China, aims to enhance its market share further. According to the regulator, Russia has imported 118 tonnes of Japanese seafood so far this year. To address the situation, Rosselkhoznadzor has sent a letter to Japan, urging the need for talks and requesting information on Japan’s radiological testing of exported fish products, including tritium, by 16th October.

In response to Russia’s announcement, Hirokazu Matsuno, a top spokesperson for the Japanese government, stated that Japan would carefully examine the development. Japan maintains that the released water is safe after undergoing treatment to remove most radioactive elements, except tritium, which is challenging to separate from water. The treated water is diluted to internationally accepted levels before being discharged.

Japan has argued that the criticism from Russia and China lacks scientific evidence. Matsuno emphasised the importance of Russia considering scientific evidence, highlighting that Russia is a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Fukushima expert team, which approved the water release plan in July.

In its latest report on water testing, Japan’s Ministry of Environment stated that the tritium concentrations in seawater, sampled on 19th September, were below the lower limit of detection at all 11 sampling points. The ministry affirmed that the released water would have no adverse impact on human health and the environment.

According to the far eastern branch of Rosselkhoznadzor, Russia has also detected no abnormalities in marine samples collected in Russian regions relatively close to the area where the treated water was discharged.

Russia, with a total catch of around 2.3 million metric tons of marine products worth approximately $6.1 billion last year, exported a significant portion to China, South Korea, and Japan, according to Russia’s fisheries agency.