Fish and Chips: microchips and the nuclear contamination of seafoods

In this brief commentary submitted to us, James De Burghe, a British socialist who is a long-term resident in China, takes a look at two current areas of contention between China and the imperialist powers. Fish and chips have both become factors in international relations, but not, he argues without imposing costs on the United States and Japan.

The USA’s attempt to throttle Chinese economic growth by interfering with the supply chain of materials, equipment, and technologies, that are crucial to the development of microchips is a clear breach of both World Trade Organization (WTO) rules as well as of international law generally. It is yet another provocation aimed at China by the US and follows on from a list of other sanctions designed to hamper China’s economic growth. However, the impact of these sanctions has damaged US companies that were based in China developing advanced electronics. The US action went so far as to make it illegal for any US citizen to work in any Chinese company developing microchips. Now after a year of failed diplomacy China has hit back by restricting the sale to the US of rare earths needed to produce microchips. The results are predictable. Janet Yellen, the US Treasury Secretary, rushed to China and loudly declared the ban to be an unfair trading practise. These somewhat childish and certainly hypocritical outbursts by senior US politicians are becoming all too frequent as it finally registers wth the US that they are losing both the propaganda and economic war against China.

Seafood is a key part of the Chinese diet and the country has imported a great deal of fish and other aquatic products from Japan over the last two decades. A significant part of that trade is now in jeopardy as the Japanese government plans to dump radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean. On July 4, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published a report announcing that Japan’s dumping plan meets the IAEA’s safety standards.

Within days of the report being released, scepticism was mounting. And it sparked a strong backlash in countries in the Asia Pacific region that will be impacted by the scheduled dumping.

Chinese experts told the Global Times newspaper, that “the risks associated with the dumping of nuclear-contaminated wastewater from Fukushima are real. From the perspective of the interests of all humankind, there should have been better options considered, but Japan has disregarded them and chosen the most favourable approach for itself.

“Deng Ge, secretary general of the CAEA [China Atomic Energy Authority], noted that according to the IAEA report, the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) method used by Japan cannot remove all radioactive nuclides from the nuclear-contaminated wastewater. Based on previous operation results, it has been proven that the ALPS method is ineffective in removing radioactive nuclides such as tritium and carbon-14. The effectiveness of ALPS in removing other radioactive nuclides also requires further testing and verification through experiments and engineering.”

As Japan plans to release hundreds of tons of the wastewater into the Pacific Ocean over the next few years, it is inconceivable that these radioactive nuclides, with their known propensity to cause cancers and other major health hazards, will not enter the human food chain or indeed damage the ocean’s flora and fauna. The trouble is that by the time we find this out it will be too late to do anything about it.

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