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.
The projected spread of radioactive cesium-137 from a disaster at the No. 3 reactor’s spent fuel pool of the Kori nuclear plant in Busan, South Korea (Provided by Kang Jung-min)
A serious nuclear accident in South Korea could force the evacuation of more than 28 million people in Japan, compared with around 24 million in the home country of the disaster.
Japan would also be hit harder by radioactive fallout than South Korea in such a disaster, particularly if it occurred in winter, when strong westerly winds would blow radioactive substances across the Sea of Japan, according to a simulation by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington-based think tank.
The simulation, based on a scenario of an unfolding crisis at the Kori nuclear power plant in Busan, South Korea, was led by Kang Jung-min, a South Korean senior researcher of nuclear physics, and his colleagues.
At events in Japan and South Korea, Kang, 51, has repeatedly warned about East Asia’s vulnerability to a severe nuclear accident, saying the region shares the “same destiny” regardless of the location of such a disaster.
The Kori nuclear complex is home to seven of the country’s 25 commercial reactors, making it one of the largest in South Korea. Its oldest reactor–and the first in the country–went online in 1978.
Spent nuclear fuel at the Kori plant is cooled in on-site storage pools next to reactors.
But the operator of the plant has ended up storing spent fuel in more cramped conditions than in the past because waste keeps accumulating from the many years of operations.
An estimated 818 tons of spent fuel was being stored at the pool of the Kori No. 3 reactor as of the end of 2015, the most at any reactor in the country.
That is because the No. 3 pool has also been holding spent fuel from the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors since their fuel pools became too crowded.
Storing spent fuel in such a manner greatly increases the risk of a nuclear accident, Kang warned.
Kang’s team simulated the series of likely events that would follow if the No. 3 reactor lost power in a natural disaster or an act of terrorism.
With no power, the spent fuel at the No. 3 reactor could not be cooled. The cooling water would evaporate, exposing the fuel rods to air, generating intensive heat and causing a fire.
Hydrogen gas would then fill up the fuel storage building, leading to an explosion that would result in the release of a large amount of vaporized cesium-137 from the spent fuel.
Assuming that the catastrophe occurred on Jan. 1, 2015, the researchers determined how highly radioactive cesium-137 would spread and fall to the ground based on the actual weather conditions over the following week, as well as the direction and velocity of winds.
To gauge the size of the area and population that would be forced to evacuate in such a disaster, the team took into account recommendations by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, a private entity, and other organizations.
The results showed that up to 67,000 square kilometers of land in Japan–or much of the western part of the country–would fall under the evacuation zone, displacing a maximum of 28.3 million people.
In South Korea, up to 54,000 square kilometers would need to be vacated, affecting up to 24.3 million people.
The simulation also found that 18.4 million Japanese and 19 million Koreans would remain displaced for even after 30 years, the half-life of cesium-137, in a worst-case scenario.
Radioactive materials from South Korea would also pollute North Korea and China, according to the study.
Nineteen reactors in South Korea are located in the coastal area facing the Sea of Japan, including those at the Kori nuclear power plant.
Kang said the public should be alerted to the dangers of highly toxic spent fuel, an inevitable byproduct of nuclear power generation.
One ton of spent fuel contains 100,000 curies of cesium-137, meaning that 20 tons of spent fuel would be enough to match the estimated 2 million curies of cesium-137 released in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
An average-size light-water reactor produces about 20 tons of spent fuel in one year of operation.
East Asia is home to one of the world’s largest congestions of nuclear facilities, Kang said.
Japan, China and South Korea, which have all promoted nuclear energy as state policy for decades, together host about 100 commercial reactors.
A number of nuclear-related facilities are also concentrated in North Korea, particularly in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang.
If a severe accident were to occur in China, the pollution would inevitably spill over to South Korea and then to Japan.
“That is why people should take serious interest in not just their own country’s nuclear issues, but also in neighboring countries,” Kang said. “Japan, China and South Korea should cooperate with each other to ensure the safety and security of spent fuel and nuclear facilities.”
He said the risks of a fire would be reduced if spent fuel were placed at greater intervals in storage pools.
“Ideally, spent fuel should be moved to sealed dry casks and cooled with air after it is cooled in a pool for about five years,” he said.
South Korea, on Friday, expanded its ban on Japanese fisheries products over concerns of contamination from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (NPP). The government in Seoul accuses Japan of not providing enough information on the crisis.
Consumption of fish products in South Korea has dropped sharply in recent weeks as concerns grow that workers at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi NPP struggle to contain leaks.
Fukushima Daiichi operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) admitted that “up to 300 tons of mildly contaminated groundwater is making its way into the Pacific Ocean every day”; a situation that has been going on for years. Moreover, TEPCO recently admitted that “highly toxic water made its way into the Pacific Ocean”.
South Korea previously imposed an import ban on dozens of Japanese fisheries products produced in Fukushima and sever other prefectures following the meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi NPP following a massive earthquake and a subsequent tsunami in 2011.
The government in Seoul has now widened the ban to all fisheries products from Fukushima prefecture as well as the prefectures of Ibaraki, Gunma, Miyagi, Iwate, Tochigi, Chiba and Aomori. South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries issued a statement stressing that:
“The measure comes as our people’s concerns are growing over the fact that hundreds of tons of radiation-contaminated water leak every day from the site of Japan’s nuclear accident in Fukushima. … The government has concluded that the information provided by Japan so far has failed to make it clear how the incident will develop in the future. … Under the new measure, all fisheries products from this region will be banned regardless of whether they are contaminated or not.”
The Ministry also urged the government in Tokyo to immediately provide full and accurate information on leaks of contaminated water. A growing number of radiation and environmental health experts stress that the claim that dilution of the radioactive water in the “vast Pacific Ocean” would make it safe to ingest fish caught off shore is right-out wrong and misleading because:
The bio accumulation of radioactive nuclei in fish;
The ingestion of one single isotope may, depending on what isotope it is and where it is lodged in the human body, cause various forms of cancer.
Eating fish from a batch that passed a “Geiger counter” test is in other words still like “participating in a fishy cancer lottery”.
However, in Tokyo on Friday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga challenged South Korea over the ban and claimed:
“We are carrying out strict safe management on foods, including fishery products, based on international standards. We would like the South Korean government to respond, based on scientific evidence.”
What Suga conveniently omitted was that Japan, following the nuclear disaster in 2011, changed its regulations – apparently because Japanese experts suddenly realized that the human body (and the Japanese economy) can “safely tolerate much higher doses” than thought before the disaster. Moreover, the contamination in Japan is according to many independent observers so bad that one would have to probe each single food item separately to be “relatively safe”.
Earlier this week Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledged global concerns over the “haphazard” management of the crisis by TEPCO and said his administration will step in with public money to get the job done. Abe didn’t specify how this “public money” should be spent, how much will be made available, how Japan wants to end the “haphazard approach” to the crisis, and maybe most importantly, who the recipient of this money would be.
In November 2015 former Japanese Ambassador to Switzerland, Mitshei Murata called on the President of the International Olympic Committee to move the 2020 Olympics from Tokyo or to cancel the games over together.
In May 2016 private activists in Japan accused Tokyo of “cooking data”. Radiation readings conducted by private activists, 40 km from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility are about eight to ten times higher than those published by authorities, said Yoichi Tao who majored in physics.
Research by Toshihide Tsuda, professor of environmental epidemiology at Okayama University, showing that the rate of children suffering from thyroid cancer in Fukushima Prefecture was as much as 20 to 50 times higher than the national average as of 2014 is being dismissed as based on “over diagnosing”.
Moreover, Japan has introduced strict legislation that can be used to put anyone who publishes not officially approved data about Fukushima or anyone who “leaks” information rather than radiation behind bars for up to ten years. This includes investigative journalists.
In 2014 independent journalists like Mako Oshidori received a thinly-veiled threat from TEPCO when she reported about the death of Fukushima cleanup workers, and who stressed she was “intimidated by police“. Mako courageously reported that she discovered a TEPCO memo, in which the Fukushima Daiichi operator TEPCO instructs officials to “cut Mako-chan’s (questions) short, appropriately”. Mako Oshidori was enrolled in the School of Life Sciences at Tottori University Faculty of Medicine for three years.
Mako revealed that TEPCO and the government cover-up the death of Fukushima workers and that government agents began following her around after she began investigating the cover-up. Mako said:
“I heard about it from researchers who were my friends as well as some government officials. I will show you a photo I secretly took of the agent, so you know what kind of surveillance I mean. When I would talk to someone, a surveillance agent from the central government’s public police force would come very close, trying to eavesdrop on the conversation….
“I would like to talk about my interview of a nurse who used to work at (the) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (NPP) after the accident. .. He was a nurse at Fukushima Daiichi NPP in 2012. He quit his job with TEPCO in 2013, and that’s when I interviewed him. …
“As of now of now, there are multiple NPP workers who have died, but only the ones who died on the job are reported publicly. Some of them have died suddenly while off work, for instance, during the weekend or in their sleep, but none of their deaths are reported. …
“Not only that, they are not included in the worker death count. For example, there are some workers who quit the job after a lot of radiation exposure, such as 50, 60 to 70 mili Sieverts, and end up dying a month later, but none of these deaths are either reported, or included in the death toll. This is the reality of the NPP workers”.
TEPCO memo, advising to “cut short” Mako Oshidori’s questions, e.t.c
However, the new legislation that “empowered” the government to impose ten year prison sentences for “unauthorized” journalism and dissemination of unauthorized information about the Fukushima Daiichi NPP and related issues for reasons of “national security” has since then largely silenced Mako, and many other journalists, experts in health, environmental health, environmental studies, radiation studies …
Is Seoul “over reacting” and is Tokyo’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga right when he claims: “We are carrying out strict safe management on foods, including fishery products, based on international standards. We would like the South Korean government to respond, based on scientific evidence”? What evidence, sampled by whom, analyzed on the basis of ??? . …