Seoul defies WTO ruling, vows to keep ban on Japan’s Fukushima seafood

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South Korea vows to maintain its restrictions on Japanese seafood imports and appeal the WTO’s ruling against additional radiation tests and bans on fishery products introduced in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In 2015, Tokyo filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) challenging South Korea’s import bans that were introduced on certain fish caught in Japanese waters over fears of radiation following the meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima power plant in March 2011. In its official complaint, Japan also challenged additional testing and certification requirements placed by Seoul on Japanese fish caught from eight prefectures near Fukushima.
On Thursday, the WTO ruled in Japan’s favor, claiming that while South Korean practices were initially justified, they now violate the WTO’s sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) agreement. “By maintaining the product-specific and blanket import bans on the 28 fishery products from the 8 prefectures and the 2011 and 2013 additional testing requirements on Japanese products, Korea acted inconsistently with Article 2.3, first sentence of the SPS Agreement and, as a consequence with Article 2.3, second sentence,” the ruling said.
South Korea on Friday refused to bow to the WTO ruling due to public health and safety concerns, announcing that it will challenge the ruling while maintaining the current level of restrictions.
“The Korean government will appeal to safeguard public health and safety,” the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a release. “Regardless of the decision, the current import ban will be put in place until the WTO’s dispute settlement procedure ends.”
Japan’s minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Ken Saito, called Seoul’s disobedience regrettable. “Japan will respond accordingly so that our position will be accepted by the Appellate Body as well. We will also call on South Korea to sincerely and promptly correct their measures,” he said at a news conference.
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Twenty-four nations across the globe still have some import limitations on Japanese seafood products. Originally, 46 nations adopted protective measures but over time have eased their restriction practices to allow Japanese imports. Despite the ban on Fukushima products, South Korea has imported 708,566 tons of seafood from Japan since March 2011, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. South Korean authorities returned only around 0.03 percent of those imports, asking for additional radiation level tests.

 

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Japan immorality in pushing the export of its contaminated foods to other countries

From The Yomiuri Shimbun, a propaganda mouthpiece close to the Japanese government.

 

Give new impetus to countries to lift import bans on Japanese seafood

An unfair import ban imposed in reaction to the nuclear accident in Fukushima Prefecture is unacceptable. Japan must make use of this clear judgment for countries to accelerate lifting such bans.

A World Trade Organization dispute settlement panel ruled that South Korea’s ban on fishery products imported from Japan amounts to “arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination” and violates WTO rules.

Citing the nuclear accident as a reason, South Korea has imposed a blanket import ban on fishery products from eight prefectures, including Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, since September 2013. For some of the import items, the ban has a serious impact on the fishery industries in areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and the nuclear accident.

Japan filed complaints with the WTO in 2015, claiming Seoul’s ban was “not based on scientific grounds and hampered free trade.” It calls for the ban to be lifted on 28 kinds of fishery products, such as bonito and saury.

The WTO has sided with Japan because it did not get a satisfactory explanation from South Korea about why Seoul focused solely on fishery products imported from Japan.

Might Seoul have aimed to exclude Japanese fishery products that compete with those of South Korea? If so, such an attitude would run counter to the WTO’s principle of free trade and losing the case would be inevitable.

The South Korean government announced that it will appeal to a higher WTO panel, equivalent to a higher court. A situation should be avoided in which handing down the final decision is unnecessarily postponed.

Moves by S. Korea, China vital

It is reasonable that Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Ken Saito said, “[We] call for South Korea to sincerely and swiftly correct the violation of the [WTO] agreement.”

Japan exports products after subjecting them to an even stricter examination than is required by international standards on the influence of radioactive substances on foods.

The number of countries and regions that imposed import bans on Japanese foods after the nuclear accident was initially 54, but it declined by half to 27 as time went by.

In addition to South Korea, many of Japan’s main trading partners, including China, the United States and the European Union, still impose import restrictions on Japanese foods. Among other steps, they continue to ban importing some items or call for the presentation of certificates of inspection of Japanese foods.

In particular, China has taken the same level of strict restrictive measures as South Korea, and banned importing all foods from Tokyo and nine other prefectures.

The moves of China and South Korea seem to strongly influence other Asian countries and others that are still taking some kind of regulatory measures against Japanese foods.

In parallel with its efforts regarding South Korea, the Japanese government needs to make more efforts toward negotiations with China for lifting its import ban.

Although the government has set the goal of exporting ¥1 trillion worth of agricultural, forestry and fisheries products and other foods in 2019, such exports remain sluggish.

It has been pointed out that meat and fruit imported from Japan, which have become luxury brands, are sought after and praised by wealthy people abroad, yet there are few products for the most populous middle-income bracket of other countries.

There is no doubt that lifting the import bans of each country would also contribute to the improvement of the image of Japanese products overall.

http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0004265927

South Korea to fight WTO ruling on Fukushima seafood ban

My respect to South Korean government which stands to protect the health of their citizens. Unlike many others.
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In this Sept. 6, 2013, file photo, a worker using a Geiger counter checks for possible radioactive contamination at Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market in Seoul, South Korea.
South Korea said Friday, Feb. 23, 2018, it will appeal the World Trade Organization’s decision against Seoul’s import bans on Japanese fishery products imposed in the wake of Fukushima nuclear meltdowns.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea said Friday it will appeal the World Trade Organization’s decision against bans on imports of Japanese fishery products after the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns.
The government said in a statement that the appeal was meant to protect public health and safety. It said it will maintain its existing regulations on imports of Japanese seafood.
The Geneva-based WTO accepted Japan’s complaint, saying South Korea’s policies violated the trade body’s rules, were discriminatory and served as a trade barrier.
In 2013, South Korea banned imports of all fishery products from eight Japanese provinces near Fukushima after Tokyo Electric Power reported leaks of radiation-contaminated water. That tightened restrictions imposed after the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant in March 2011. It also required inspection certificates for food products from Japan if small amounts of radioactive cesium or iodine were detected.
Japan filed a complaint against the move in 2015.
Japan’s minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Ken Saito, said the appeal was regrettable. He urged South Korea to abide by the decision and scrap its current practices.
“Japan will respond accordingly so that our position will be accepted by the Appellate Body as well. We will also call on South Korea to sincerely and promptly correct their (import ban) measures,” he said at a news conference.
South Korea is one of a handful of countries that have banned foods from Fukushima and surrounding prefectures.
China also bans seafood and other agricultural products from Fukushima and nine other prefectures, including Tokyo. It requires certificate on foods from the rest of Japan. The two governments recently set up a committee to discuss possibly easing the ban.
Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and several other countries such as Singapore, Russia and the Philippines, also ban seafood and other agricultural products from Fukushima and surrounding prefectures. However they allow imports from elsewhere in Japan if they have a required certificate of safety. Taiwan has agreed to start easing restrictions later this year.
The U.S. does not impose a blanket ban on Fukushima, but instead restricts specific agricultural products from specific regions.
Since the accident, 26 countries have lifted bans on imports related to the Fukushima disaster.

Japan wins WTO dispute over Fukushima-related food

Proving that  World Trade Organization focuses on trade and not on people health.
TOKYO, Feb 22 (Reuters) – The World Trade Organization on Thursday largely upheld a Japanese complaint against South Korea’s import bans and additional testing requirements imposed on Japanese seafood because of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In a ruling that can be appealed by either side, a WTO dispute panel said that South Korea’s measures were initially justified but that keeping them in place violated the WTO’s sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) agreement.
“Japan welcomes the panel’s decision and hopes that South Korea will sincerely and swiftly take corrective action,” Japan’s Fisheries Agency and Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
Japan, which has been in talks with other countries such as China and Taiwan that also have trade restrictions in place, plans to step up talks with them in light of the WTO ruling, a government official said.
Many countries have removed or relaxed restrictions on produce from Japan in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, which led to meltdowns at a nuclear plant and forced Japan to suspend some agricultural and fisheries exports.
Some countries have maintained bans on imports, but South Korea is the only one that Japan has taken to the WTO.
South Korea widened its initial ban on Japanese fishery imports in 2013 to cover all seafood from eight Japanese prefectures including Fukushima.
Japan launched its trade complaint at the WTO in 2015, arguing that radioactive levels were safe and that a number of other nations, including the United States and Australia, had lifted or eased Fukushima-related restrictions.
South Korea imported 10.9 billion yen ($102 million) worth of Japanese seafood in the year to August 2013 before it broadened its restrictions. Those imports then fell to 8.4 billion yen the following year, according to the Japanese government.
Either side can appeal the ruling within 60 days, otherwise South Korea will be expected to bring its treatment of Japanese seafood into line with the WTO rules.
Relations between Japan and South Korea, often testy, have soured in recent years.

Roof completed for removal of spent fuel rods at Fukushima plant

February 21, 2018
Work was completed Feb. 21 on a half-cylinder roof designed to trap radioactive substances emitted when spent fuel rods are removed from the No. 3 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant’s operator, plans to remove the spent fuel from the building’s storage pool as early as this autumn.
Construction work on the roof–23 meters wide and 57 meters long–started in July 2017.
The final piece, weighing about 55 tons, was lifted by a crane and put into place on Feb. 21. The roof is located directly above the storage pool.
A hydrogen explosion severely damaged the original roof of the No. 3 reactor building days after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the meltdowns at the plant.
The 566 fuel assemblies in the storage pool pose a serious risk in the event of another disaster striking the plant.
Completion of the roof should advance TEPCO’s plans to remove the fuel rods as soon as possible.
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The final part of a roof is put in place on the top of the No. 3 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on Feb. 21.
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A photo taken from an Asahi Shimbun helicopter on Feb. 21 shows the completion of work for a roof at the No. 3 reactor building of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on Feb. 21.
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The half-cylinder roof is designed to prevent radioactive substances from escaping during fuel-rod removal work in the No. 3 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Japan wants Fukushima evacuees to go home. They’re not so sure.

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About 160,000 people left their homes in 2011, after an earthquake and tsunami triggered the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Today, the government says it’s safe for many to return. But regaining residents’ trust remains a challenge.
February 21, 2018 Yonezawa, Japan—For Toru Takeda, the best and worst parts of life in Yonezawa are the same: snow. Located in the mountains 150 miles north of Tokyo, the city typically lies under a few feet every winter. It snows so much that many streets in Yonezawa are equipped with sprinklers that spray warm underground water to keep them clear.
Mr. Takeda is still getting used to the sheer amount of snow and the inconveniences that come with it. Train delays. Slow traffic. Shoveling. It doesn’t snow nearly as much in Fukushima City, his hometown, an hour-long drive away in good weather.
But snow has its benefits when it melts. “The soil here is rich because the snow melts slowly,” Takeda says one morning at a diner in downtown Yonezawa. He’s certain that the gradual thaw makes the fruits and vegetables grown in the region some of the best in Japan. Taking a sip of coffee, he adds solemnly, “The water and soil in Fukushima [Prefecture] is still contaminated.”
It’s been almost seven years since the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami struck the northeast coast of Japan and triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. The cleanup is projected to cost $200 billion and take up to 40 years. Yet already many of the area’s 160,000 evacuees have started to return.
The Japanese government says it’s safe, but Takeda isn’t convinced. His faith in authority was shattered by the botched response to the meltdown. Today, he remains suspicious of everything from regulatory agencies to utility companies, to say nothing of food safety and, of course, nuclear power. Whether the government is able to regain Takeda’s trust – and the trust of thousands of others like him – is an important test of its ability to revive the cities and towns of Fukushima.
“We don’t believe the government anymore,” Takeda says, speaking for himself, his wife and daughter, and about 20 other evacuees he knows who have refused to leave Yonezawa. “I’ll do anything and everything I can to make sure we can stay,” he declares. That includes going to court.
Man on a mission
It all started last March, when the Fukushima prefectural government ended unconditional housing subsidies to nearly 27,000 people who left areas not designated as mandatory evacuation zones – including Takeda and many others in Yonezawa. Faced with the choice of returning to areas they fear are still unsafe or paying rent many can’t afford, they’ve chosen neither. Instead, they’ve stayed in their apartments and refused to pay rent. The local public housing agency tolerated this for a while. Then, in September, it filed an eviction lawsuit against the so-called voluntary evacuees, who quickly hired a team of lawyers in response.
“The Japanese government and Tepco caused the disaster,” Takeda says, referring to Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. “They should have to pay.”
Since moving to Yonezawa in April 2011, Takeda, a 77-year-old retired high school English teacher, has emerged as the de facto leader of the city’s evacuee community. He organizes social gatherings and frequently meets with local government officials. He and his wife even set up a learning center in their small, three-room apartment for evacuee children. The center closed after two years, and now Takeda spends most of his time on the lawsuit. He does everything from fundraising to meeting with lawyers.
“The government hates me,” he says. “If not for me then the evacuees would have already gone back.”
While the lawsuit in Yonezawa continues, some victims have already found redress. In October, a district court in Fukushima ruled that the Japanese government and Tepco must pay damages totaling $4.4 million to about 2,900 people. It was the third case in which a court found the company negligent in not preventing the meltdown. 
‘It breeds distrust’
Yonezawa, which lies 60 miles northwest of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, was once home to as many as 3,900 evacuees from Fukushima. There are fewer than 500 now left, according to government figures. Some have returned home, either out of financial necessity or because they believe it’s safe, but many have refused. In a survey conducted last April by the Fukushima government, 80 percent of voluntary evacuees living in other parts of Japan said they had no intention of going back.
The government has worked hard to assuage any lingering fears. But Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace, says officials have played down the potential health risks because of the pressure they feel to put a positive spin on the situation. With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics approaching, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to deliver on his promise that the Fukushima cleanup effort is “under control.”
“Having zones where people can’t live is politically unacceptable for the government,” Mr. Burnie says. “It creates the impression that a nuclear disaster can destroy whole communities for a long time.”
As the government rushes to revitalize Fukushima, it may run the risk of deepening public distrust, diminishing the respect for authority that is deeply rooted in Japanese society. A 2017 Pew survey found that 57 percent of Japanese have at least some trust in the national government to act in the country’s best interests, though just 6 percent have a lot of trust in national leaders.
Timothy Jorgenson, an associate professor of radiation medicine at Georgetown University, wrote in a 2016 online commentary that one of the government’s mistakes was its decision to increase the maximum limit of radiation exposure from 1 microsievert to 20 microsieverts per year. (Microsieverts measure the effects of low-level radiation.)
“To the Japanese people, this raising of the annual safety limit from one to 20 mSv appears like the government is backpedaling on its commitment to safety,” Dr. Jorgenson wrote. “This is the problem with moving regulatory dose limits after the fact to accommodate inconvenient circumstances; it breeds distrust.”
Jorgenson wrote that the government would be better off to just explain what the health risks are at various radiation doses and leave it at that. Armed with such information, evacuees could decide for themselves if they want to return home.
For now, the government appears poised to further cut housing subsidies to evacuees. Its current plan would remove 5,000 households from the roll by March 2019. Advocacy groups are pressuring it to reconsider. In a written statement submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Feb. 2, Greenpeace and Human Rights Now, a Tokyo-based nongovernmental organization, called on the government to “provide necessary housing support to all Fukushima evacuees, including those who evacuated from outside the government designated areas, as long as needed to ensure their ability to freely choose where they will live without pressure to return areas where their health or life would be at risk.”
If the Japanese government were to take such advice, the lawsuit in Yonezawa could end. Takeda says it’s a tempting thought, but rather than waiting for the government to change its plan, he’s busy preparing for his next court appearance on March 20.
“I don’t have much time left,” Takeda says. “I can’t go home.”

Fukushima plant reactor #3 gets new roof cover

 

 
Workers at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have finished installing a new roof covering for the No.3 reactor building.
The work started last August to set up a dome-shaped cover. It is part of preparations for removing nuclear fuel from the reactor’s storage pool. A total of 566 spent and unused fuel units remain in the storage pool of the No. 3 reactor.
On Wednesday, workers installed the last part of the cover, which is 17 meters high and 22 meters wide, and weighs 55 tons.
The cover will prevent radioactive materials from spreading, and shield the building from winds.
Reactors at the Fukushima plant suffered meltdowns after a quake-triggered tsunami hit the plant on March 11th, 2011. The fuel units left in storage pools need to be removed as part of decommission work at the plant.
The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, will clear the pool of rubble and provide workers with training on remotely handling devices for the fuel removal.
Then, it plans to start removing nuclear fuel units from the No.3 reactor’s storage pool in autumn this year, ahead of those of other damaged reactors.
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