The discharge of wastewater into the sea began last week and will last several decades. Japanese fishery associations and neighboring countries oppose it.

TOKYO – The U.S. ambassador to Japan visited a town in Fukushima Prefecture on Thursday where he shared a seafood lunch with the mayor, talked with fishermen and bought local food to show it is safe after treated radioactive wastewater from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant was dumped into the sea. Rahm Emanuel backed Japan and criticized China’s ban on Japanese seafood, which he called a political move.

Emanuel ate sole and sea bass sashimi with Soma Mayor Hidekiyo Tachiya, talked with fishermen and visited a grocery store where he bought peaches, figs, grapes, sole and other local produce.

All of these foods will be served when his children visit him this weekend, Emanuel said in a telephone interview while returning by train to Tokyo. “We will all eat them. As a father, I think if there was a problem, I wouldn’t serve it.”

The dumping of sewage into the sea began last week and is expected to last for several decades. Japanese fishing associations and neighboring countries are opposed, and China immediately banned the import of Japanese seafood.

Emanuel said Japan’s water dumping plan is scientifically based and totally transparent, in “total contrast” to how China handled the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Chinese ban is political,” he said. The end of the ban “depends on whether China wants to be a good neighbor.”

Radioactive wastewater has been accumulating at the Fukushima plant since a major earthquake followed by a tsunami in 2011 destroyed cooling systems and caused flaws in three reactors. The 1.34 million tons of water is stored in about 1,000 tanks and continues to increase due to leaks and the use of cooling water.

The government and the plant operator say that the discharge of the water is inevitable because the capacity of the tanks will be exhausted early next year and space will be needed to decommission the plant, a process that is believed to take decades.

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