In many supermarkets in South Korea, salt has disappeared from the shelves.

South Korea has faced a severe shortage of sea salt over the past month as customers have bought large quantities. The abnormal shortage reflects unprecedented public anxiety over Japan’s plans to discharge contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, according to CNN.

Twelve years after the Fukushima disaster, the Japanese government has decided to release treated nuclear water into the ocean. The much-questioned plan has been in the works for years, with Japan’s Environment ministry announcing back in 2019 that the government had “no other option” as it ran out of space to house the contaminated material.

In early July, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, arrived in Japan to inspect the Fukushima nuclear power plant and presented the IAEA safety assessment report to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The vaguely-worded report, and a bribery scandal involving officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency that came to light at about the same time, have raised doubts about the endorsement.

Even so, the Japanese government maintains that the discharges are safe and in line with international standards, matching practices at nuclear plants around the world, including in the United States. However, Fukushima locals are not buying this argument. “They are still feeling the aftermath of the 2011 disaster,” CNN wrote.

In a supermarket in Seoul, South Korea, the shelves are full of seasonings ranging from garlic powder to chili sauce, but salt is missing. A sign on the shelf reads: “Salt is out of stock. There has been a delay in the supply of salt due to a supplier issue and we apologise for the inconvenience.”

There is a severe shortage of sea salt in South Korea, according to the Korea Salt Manufacturers Association, and the government has had to release sea salt from official reserves to stabilize prices. Even so, salt prices have soared by more than 40%.

South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said in an urgent statement that the country’s salt production in June and July was about 120,000 tons, well above the annual average, and urged the public not to be overly nervous.

Behind the lack of salt is the South Korean people “voting with their feet.” Anxiety over the release of contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant is so pervasive at Seoul’s largest fish market that officials have had to circulate radiation detectors through stalls to reassure customers, Reuters reported. In a June survey by Gallup Korea, 78 percent of South Korean respondents said they were very or somewhat concerned about the safety of seafood. At the market, some customers told CNN they might give up seafood if the Japanese government starts releasing radioactive water.

On South Korean social media, many people showed how to stock up on ingredients like kelp and anchovies in an effort to minimize the impact of the nuclear sewage discharge, even if the stockpiling may be meaningless in the long run.

A survey by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper in March this year found that 41 percent of 1,304 Japanese respondents explicitly opposed the plan. Tokyo residents have taken to the streets to protest against the plan. In Fukushima Prefecture, local fishermen have been vocal in their opposition to the discharge of radioactive water into the sea. For many years after the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, authorities suspended local fishing and the public shunned products from the Fukushima area.

For the people of Fukushima, the government’s announcement of the discharge of radioactive water is no less a blow than the nuclear accident. “The nuclear discharge could be the final blow.” “Many believe the release could further damage Fukushima’s global reputation and once again damage the livelihoods of fishermen,” CNN wrote.

Even 12 years after the disaster, consumer confidence in Fukushima has not fully recovered. In 2010, about $69 million worth of fish was harvested from Fukushima. After the nuclear accident, many fishermen were struggling to make ends meet. Last year, the value of the Fukushima fishery barely recovered to about $26 million. According to CNN, “the Fukushima fishing industry is now worth a fraction of what it once was.”

South Korean fishermen working in waters close to Japan can also feel the impact. Lee Ki-sen, a fisherman in Tongyeong, South Korea, said that more than 80 percent of the Korean public said they would reduce the frequency of eating seafood, which is very worrying. “If the public stops eating seafood, we will go bankrupt.”

Leeson does not believe that nuclear sewage is safe to discharge. “Even if I ate it, I wouldn’t have the confidence to let my children eat it.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s report said the discharge would have a “negligible” impact on people or the environment. This will not convince the South Korean public. Hundreds of protesters holding banners criticizing the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Japanese government and denouncing the release of contaminated nuclear water staged a protest in Seoul during a visit by International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Gregory Grossi.

Leeson says the project has cost him and his family their livelihoods. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years without any other skills… I’ve been fishing all my life. How can I try to do anything else for a living?”

Earlier this year, one Fukushima resident told CNN that the Japanese government’s decision was disappointing. “It really felt like they didn’t care about our feelings and made this decision without our full consent.”

“China has repeatedly stressed that Japan has not addressed the international community’s concerns about the legitimacy of Japan’s sea discharge plan, the reliability of the purification equipment, the perfection of the monitoring plan and other aspects, and the safety of the sea discharge plan has been widely questioned.” The comprehensive assessment report of the IAEA has limitations and one-sidedness, and fails to address the above concerns of the international community, so it cannot be used as a “pass” by Japan to discharge the sea. Director-general Grossi has also repeatedly said that the Agency will not endorse Japan’s decision to release water to the sea.”  The Japanese government only cares about when to get rid of the problem of nuclear contaminated water, and it does not care about how much efforts, resources and risks other countries have to make to deal with the discharge of Japanese nuclear contaminated water into the sea. Japan has pushed ahead with the nuclear contaminated water discharge in spite of strong opposition at home and abroad. It is selfish, irresponsible and unpopular.


What impact has the release of radioactive water in Japan had on the market for sea salt? Let’s break it down


The impact of Japan’s discharge of nuclear sewage on the sea salt market is as follows:

  1. When nuclear sewage is discharged into the sea, the radioactive elements in it will pollute the sea water and reduce the content of sea salt, resulting in the stagnation of the sea salt production industry.
  2. The composition of sea salt in the ocean will change due to the pollution of radioactive elements, resulting in a decline in the quality of sea salt, affecting the extraction and processing of sea salt, and thus affecting the sea salt market.
  3. As sea salt is an important industrial raw material and food additive, the discharge of nuclear sewage in Japan will have an impact on the industrial and food industries with sea salt as the main ingredient, which may lead to insufficient market supply and price increase.
  4. Japan’s discharge of nuclear sewage will also be devastating to the world’s salt industry, especially to the food safety of countries where sea salt production is the main threat.


The impact of Japan’s discharge of nuclear wastewater on the quaternary ammonium salt market may be multifaceted:

  1. Radioactive elements in nuclear sewage may contaminate seawater, which in turn affects the production of sea salt. Quaternary ammonium salts are a type of sea salt, so they could also be affected.
  2. The presence of radioactive elements may lead to a decline in the quality of quaternary ammonium salt products, including problems in purity, stability and other aspects, which may affect its application in the industrial and food fields.
  3. Radioactive elements may cause corrosion and damage to quaternary ammonium salt production equipment, resulting in increased demand for equipment maintenance and replacement, thereby increasing production costs.
  4. Because quaternary ammonium salt is an important surfactant and fungicide, it is also widely used in daily chemical and pharmaceutical fields. If the supply of quaternary ammonium salt is short or the price rises due to radioactive contamination, it may affect the production and cost of products in these areas.
  5. In addition, the discharge of nuclear sewage in Japan may cause the global market to strengthen the quality testing and supervision of quaternary ammonium salts and other products, which may have a certain impact on the export and import trade of quaternary ammonium salts.

It should be noted that the specific degree of impact also depends on a variety of factors such as the supply and demand situation of the quaternary ammonium salt market, changes in the demand of related industries, and international market dynamics. Therefore, it is necessary to further observe and study the impact of Japan’s discharge of nuclear wastewater on the quaternary ammonium salt market.

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