Hong Kong will immediately ban the import of water products from Fukushima and other Japanese prefectures if Tokyo releases radioactive wastewater into the sea, a senior city official said Wednesday.
Secretary for Environment and Ecology Tse Chin-wan said that although the waste water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant will be treated before being discharged into the Pacific Ocean, any errors in the process will affect the ecology and food safety. The concern stems from Japan’s UN-endorsed, but controversial, plan to gradually release treated water.
“Our assessment shows that the prefectures near Fukushima are at higher risk, so we are now taking a responsible approach for our residents,” he told reporters in a briefing.
The 10 affected territories are Tokyo, Fukushima, Chiba, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Gunma, Miyagi, Niigata, Nagano and Saitama, he added.
A massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 destroyed the cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, causing three reactors to melt down and release large amounts of radiation. The water storage tanks used since the accident to cool the reactor cores will reach their capacity in early 2024.
In 2021, the Japanese government announced plans to gradually release treated—but only slightly radioactive—water after diluting it to what it says are safe levels. Japanese officials say the water, currently stored in about a thousand tanks at the plant, must be removed to prevent accidental leaks in the event of an earthquake and to make room for the decommissioning of the plant.
Last week, the UN nuclear agency endorsed the plan, saying it meets international standards and the impact on the environment and health can be neglected.
But the plan has faced fierce protests from local fishing communities concerned about safety and reputational damage. Neighboring countries, including South Korea, China and Pacific Island nations, have also raised safety concerns.
In Hong Kong, the import of certain products—such as fruits and vegetables—from Fukushima is currently prohibited. Other products such as meat and poultry from there are allowed to enter if they have a radiation certificate.
Imports of many food products from Japan’s four other prefectures south of Fukushima—Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba—must also be accompanied by a radiation certificate.
For the planned policies announced on Wednesday, Tse said the government will be scientific and review the data. If the situation is safe, the government will consider relaxing its restrictions, he said.
Earlier, Naoto Nakahara, deputy consul general of the Japanese Consulate in Hong Kong, told Nikkei that the Hong Kong government was “trying to win brownie points from Beijing.”
In response to the reported criticism but without identifying anyone, Tse said that officials are making policies according to the situation in Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong has a high degree of autonomy,” he said.
Last year, the main food imports from Japan accounted for about 2% of Hong Kong’s total food supply, official data showed. Although Hong Kong does not rely heavily on Japanese food products in terms of quantity, many residents love Japanese food and there are many Japanese restaurants in the city.
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Citation: Ripples of Fukushima: Hong Kong to ban more Japanese products if radioactive water is released (2023, July 13) retrieved 13 July 2023 from https://techxplore.com/news/2023-07-ripples- fukushima-hong-kong-japanese.html
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