Japanese 100-yen shop slapped with fine, 2-year import ban in Taiwan

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TAIPEI (Kyodo) — Taiwan authorities said Wednesday that Japanese 100-yen shop chain Daiso has been fined NT$41.64 million (US$1.38 million) for falsifying import application documents and banned from importing goods from Japan for two years.

Foreign Trade Bureau deputy chief Lee Guann-jyh told a legislative committee that the punishments have been meted out to Hiroshima-based Daiso Industries Co., which has been operating in Taiwan since 2001 and has about 60 stories here.
 
In November 2015, Daiso received a six-month import ban for having illegally imported food products from parts of Japan affected by 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster between July 2014 and March 2015, and selling them with falsified labels of origin.
 
During that six-month period, Daiso could still import goods from Japan on a case-by-case basis after obtaining permission from the bureau.
 
But in doing so, it falsified the dates of the imported goods, altering them to predate the six-month ban period that began in November 2015. A total of 694 import application documents were fraudulent, according to the bureau.
On April 27, the company held a press conference in which it apologized to Taiwanese consumers.
 
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‘Everything is fine and delicious in Fukushima’ according to the director the Fukushima Reconstruction Promotion Group at the minister’s secretariat of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

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Fukushima, seven years on
by Hideyasu Tamura
May 21, 2018
More than seven years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011. A successful decommissioning of the plant and reconstruction of Fukushima is one of the most important missions of the government, especially the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Since 2016, I’ve been involved in the ministry’s special unit on Fukushima reconstruction, and mainly charged with a mission to eliminate reputational damage.
After the accident, the government set very stringent standards on the level of radioactive substances in food (in principle, 100 becquerel/kg: 10 times stricter than the Codex radionuclides standard), and any food product exceeding that level is prohibited for market distribution. Food products from Fukushima have undergone stringent monitoring, including all-volume inspection on rice and beef. Since 2015, not a single grain of rice or any piece of beef has been found with radioactive substances exceeding that level.
Nevertheless, around 12 percent of consumers in Japan tend to avoid agricultural and fishery products from Fukushima, according to a Consumer Affairs Agency survey. Since such reputational damage lingers even at home, the popular perception gap concerning Fukushima is likely even more serious overseas. With a view toward bridging that gap, I would like to highlight the following facts.
First, in the 12 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture where evacuation orders were introduced after the nuclear disaster (Futaba, Hirono, Iitate, Kawamata, Kawauchi, Katsurao, Minamisoma, Namie, Naraha, Okuma, Tamura and Tomioka), the number of companies in the industrial estates has doubled from 35 before the disaster (in December 2010) to 70 in January. Some of the companies that have newly launched operation there engage in business that are relatively new to this area, such as the recycling of lithium-ion batteries and the production of internet-of-things devices that are wearable.
The establishment of the new companies have been facilitated by government incentives, including subsidies on investments that cover up to three-quarters of the investment cost, as well as the development of industrial infrastructure, such as the Fukushima Robot Test Field in Minamisoma and Namie. The test field, where any entity can use an extensive site (approximately 50 hectares) for demonstration experiments of robots and drones, is the core facility of the Fukushima Innovation Coast Framework.
This shows that the areas of Fukushima hit by the nuclear disaster have already become safe enough for businesses to operate. Private-sector companies never launch operations in locations where their employees’ safety is not ensured, even when the government provides most favorable incentives.
Second, as another proof of the area’s safety, the current situation of the Fukushima No. 1 plant should be highlighted. Today, workers can enter 96 percent of the site without any special radiation protection gear because the air dose rate has significantly decreased compared with right after the accident.
In addition, through multi-layered measures (e.g., the construction of frozen soil walls to suppress the inflow of groundwater as well as the pumping up of groundwater), the generation of contaminated water has been significantly reduced and prevented from leaking into the ocean. As a result, the concentration of radioactive materials in the sea water surrounding the plant has declined from 10,000 becquerels per liter as of March 2011 to below the detection limit (less than 0.7 becquerel per liter) since 2016.
The successful management of contaminated water has resulted in the improved safety of Fukushima’s fishery products. No marine products caught off Fukushima has exceeded the standard limit (100 becquerel/kg) in monitoring surveys over the fiscal years from 2015 to 2017.
Third, evacuation orders were lifted in many parts of the 12 municipalities by April 2017, and areas still under such orders account for approximately 2.7 percent of the prefecture’s total space — compared with 8 percent when the zoning was set in 2013. In several municipalities where evacuation orders were lifted up relatively early (such as the city of Tamura and the village of Kawauchi), around 80 percent of local residents have returned to their homes. Even in the areas where evacuation orders remain in place, efforts to improve the living environment have begun to pave the way for return of residents at the earliest possible time.
Needless to say, many challenges remain toward the successful reconstruction of Fukushima. The decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 1 plant is expected to take 30 to 40 years. To carry out the decommissioning, the retrieval of the melted nuclear fuel debris will be a major hurdle, and efforts to probe the inside of the reactor structures just started in 2015. In several towns where the evacuation orders were lifted only last year, less than 10 percent of local residents have returned to their homes. The improvement of living environment is an urgent task for those towns in order to encourage more residents to return.
Despite these challenges, the safety of Fukushima both in terms of its food products and the living/working environment in most parts of the prefecture has been proven. It is a pity that several countries/regions still impose import restrictions on Japanese food products (including those from Fukushima) and some people still hesitate to visit Fukushima for tourism or business. I wish that more people will visit Fukushima to taste the delicious and world’s safest rice, peaches and fish, and that more companies would be interested in utilizing advanced facilities/infrastructure such as the Fukushima Robot Test Field, and invest in Fukushima by taking advantage of the most favorable incentives in this country. Peaches will be harvested every year, but subsidies and other incentives will not last forever — so, the fast-movers will get the advantages.
Hideyasu Tamura is director the Fukushima Reconstruction Promotion Group at the minister’s secretariat of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Radiation monitors in Fukushima to be scrapped after malfunctioning to the tune of ¥500 million a year

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May 21, 2018
The thousands of radiation-monitoring posts installed in Fukushima Prefecture after the 2011 nuclear crisis have malfunctioned nearly 4,000 times, sources said Sunday as the Nuclear Regulation Authority prepares to remove them after spending ¥500 million a year on repair costs.
“It’s all about the budget in the end. They can’t reuse the devices and there seem to be no concrete plans,” said Terumi Kataoka, a housewife in Aizuwakamatsu who formed a group of mothers to petition the NRA last month to keep the monitors in place. The NRA refused.
Around 3,000 of the monitors were installed in the wake of the triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant following the March 2011 mega-quake and tsunami. The NRA, which operates the monitoring posts, plans to remove around 80 percent of them by the end of fiscal 2020 on the grounds that radiation levels in some areas have fallen and stabilized.
But the move is being viewed by some as an attempt to cut costs because the government is also looking to terminate its special budgetary account for rebuilding Tohoku by the same year.
Some municipalities and residents oppose scrapping the monitoring posts because they will no longer be able to gauge the risk to their health. They were installed in kindergartens, schools and other places to measure radiation in the air, according to the NRA.
But in the five years since the network was activated in fiscal 2013, the system has been plagued by problems including inaccurate readings and data-transmission failures. The tally of cases stands at 3,955.
Each time, the undisclosed makers of the device and security companies were called to fix it, costing the central government about ¥500 million a year.
In March, the NRA decided to remove about 2,400 of the monitoring posts from areas outside the 12 municipalities near the wrecked power plant and reuse some of them in the municipalities.
Local citizens’ groups have asked the NRA not to remove the monitoring posts until the plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., is decommissioned. That project is expected to take decades.
Kataoka asked the NRA to disclose information on its plans to reuse the devices, but she was told no official documents on the plans had been drafted yet.
On Monday, Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori urged the central government to investigate the cause of the monitor malfunctions and take measures to address the issue.
“The accuracy of the system is important,” he said.
Safecast, a global volunteer-based citizen science organization formed in 2011 to monitor radiation from the Fukushima disaster, said some devices had to be replaced because they didn’t work or were not made to the required specifications. Many were placed in locations that had notably lower ambient radiation than their surroundings, and so were not adequately representative of the situation, it added.
“Removing the units seems like a huge step away from transparency,” said Azby Brown, lead researcher at Safecast.
Brown said the public will certainly view the move with suspicion and increasingly mistrust the government, while the continuity of the database is lost.

Fukushima Quote of the Day

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“We achieved the sixth straight year of victory despite the severe situation due to rumors about radiation contamination”.

Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori, speaking at a ceremony after the National Research Institute of Brewing awarded Fukushima Prefecture the national sake title for an unprecedented sixth straight year.

Radiation Exposure on Fukushima Highway 50: 0.35 to 6.44 μSv/h (average 2.53 μSv/h)

The figure below reflects the data measured by the Geiger counter named “Narar tree” on Google Maps when going from Minami Soma to Katsurao village for monitoring on 14th May.
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When going from Minami Soma to Katsurao village, it is the fastest way to go from Route 114 to Prefectural Route 50, but the prefectural highway No. 50 has just opened on April 19th.
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Especially for a while after showing the high air dose rate from Route 114 to Route 50. Although you can take the road, it is prohibited to get out of the car. Bicycles and motorbikes are prohibited from traffic.
In the data measured by the support team for nuclear disaster victims
“Prefectural highway No. 50: 0.35 to 6.44 μSv / h (average 2.53 μSv / h)”
We measured while traveling in a closed car. It is thought that the measures will be higher if measured outside of the car.
From Fukushima Daiichi Surrounding Environment Citizen Radiation Monitoring Project

Fukushima Prefecture radiation monitoring posts installed after 3/11 hit by glitches, radiation monitors in Fukushima broken, malfunctioned 4,000 times

Local citizens’ groups in Fukushima are requesting the authority not to remove radiation monitoring posts.
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A radiation monitoring device is installed at a park in the city of Fukushima.
This file photo dated February 24, 2017 shows a radiation monitoring device in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture.
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Some 3,000 radiation monitoring devices installed in Fukushima Prefecture after the 2011 nuclear accident have been hit by glitches and other problems nearly 4,000 times, sources familiar with the matter said Sunday.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority, which operates the devices called monitoring posts, is planning to remove around 80 percent of them by the end of fiscal 2020 on grounds that radiation levels in some areas have fallen and steadied.
But the move can also be seen as an attempt to cut costs as the government is expected to terminate by the same year a special budget account for rebuilding northeastern Japan areas affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered the nuclear crisis.
Some local governments and residents have opposed the planned removal of monitoring posts, expressing concerns about their health.
Around 3,000 monitoring posts were installed in locations such as kindergartens and schools to measure radiation levels in the air, according to the NRA.
But during the five years since fully starting the operation of the devices in fiscal 2013, the monitoring system has been hit by problems, such as showing inaccurate readings and failing to transmit data, some 3,955 times.
The makers of the device and security system companies were called each time to fix the problems. Managing the monitoring posts has cost the central government about 500 million yen ($4.5 million) a year.
In March, the NRA decided to remove some 2,400 monitoring devices set in areas other than 12 municipalities near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and reuse some of them in the municipalities.
A citizens group in the city of Koriyama has requested the authority not to remove the monitoring posts until the decommissioning work is completed at the plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.

Hong Kong to reach decision by November on lifting Japanese food import ban over Fukushima disaster

News comes after city’s leader in March declined request to remove restrictions, citing public safety
Hong Kong is considering lifting a ban on Japanese food imports after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, with a decision to be reached by November when the city’s top official visits the country, the Post has learned.
In March, Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono met Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in Hong Kong to request the removal of restrictions on food imports imposed after the 2011 accident. But Lam expressed reservations at the time, citing public safety.
The ban covers fresh produce and milk from Fukushima and four neighbouring prefectures, while fresh produce from the rest of the country is subjected to radiation tests by Hong Kong authorities.
An earthquake seven years ago led to a tsunami damaging nuclear reactors at a plant in Fukushima, sparking fears of radiation leaks.
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On Saturday, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported that Lam told visiting members of the Japan-Hong Kong Parliamentarian League earlier this month she was exploring measures to scrap food import restrictions.
It also stated that Lam hoped to make the decision by November 1, when she is expected to head to Tokyo for a Hong Kong-related forum and meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
A local government source confirmed to the Post that it was looking into the possibilities of lifting the ban, but he added these might not cover Fukushima imports.
He also said Lam’s meeting with Abe was not finalised.
The Kyodo report said Lam had explained to visiting league members the difficulties in lifting the ban on Fukushima’s food products, saying the public might not understand the decision because the prefecture was “too well known”.
The report also quoted a Japanese government source as saying: “We are negotiating with Hong Kong and trying our best to get the ban lifted.”
A spokesman for the Hong Kong Food and Health Bureau said on Saturday the authority had tested more than 490,000 samples of food imported from Japan since the restrictions were in place and none of the samples had radiation levels exceeding recommended limits.
He said the government had been maintaining communication with Japanese authorities and reviewing control measures on food imported from the country in light of current conditions.