HomeTop StoriesHong Kong bans Japanese products from areas where radioactive water is discharged

Hong Kong bans Japanese products from areas where radioactive water is discharged

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong would immediately ban imports of aquatic products from Fukushima and other Japanese prefectures if Tokyo dumps treated radioactive wastewater into the sea, a top city official said Wednesday.

Environment and Ecology Minister Tse Chin-wan said that while the wastewater from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant would be treated before being discharged into the Pacific Ocean, any mistakes in the process would significantly affect ecology and food safety. The concern stems from Japan’s UN-approved but controversial plan to gradually release the treated water.

“Our assessment shows that prefectures near Fukushima have higher risks, so we are now taking a responsible path for our residents,” he told reporters at a briefing.

The 10 affected areas 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 power plant, melting three reactors and releasing large amounts of radiation. The tanks that store the water used to cool the reactor cores since the accident will reach capacity in early 2024.

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In 2021, the Japanese government announced plans to gradually release the treated – but still mildly radioactive – water after diluting it to what it believes are safe levels. Japanese officials say the water, currently stored in about 1,000 tanks at the plant, must be removed to prevent accidental spills in the event of an earthquake and to make room for the plant to be dismantled.

Last week, the UN’s nuclear agency approved the plan, saying it meets international standards and that environmental and health impacts are negligible.

But the plan was met with strong protests from local fishing communities concerned about safety and reputational damage. Neighboring countries, including South Korea, China and Pacific Islands, have also raised security concerns.

In Hong Kong, the import of certain products, such as fruits and vegetables, from Fukushima is currently banned. Other products such as meat and poultry from there are allowed if they have a radiation certificate.

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Imports of many food products from four other Japanese prefectures immediately south of Fukushima – Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba – will also have to be accompanied by a radiation certificate.

For the planned policy announced on Wednesday, Tse said the government will be scientific and revised data. If the situation is safe, the government will consider easing restrictions, he said.

Last year, major food imports from Japan amounted to about 2% of Hong Kong’s total food supply, official data showed. Although Hong Kong is not very dependent 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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