Taiwan tightens controls on Japan food imports, citing mislabeling — The Japan Times

And it looks like the U.S. isn’t the only country concerned with contamination of its Japanese food imports.

The Japan Times: ” Taiwan imposed new restrictions on food imported from Japan on Friday after hundreds of products were recalled over labels that disguised the fact that they came from areas affected by the nuclear crisis at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Taiwan banned Japanese food imports from five prefectures including Fukushima in March 2011, a few weeks after the triple meltdown occurred and radioactive particles were detected in some imports.

Starting Friday, all food imports from Japan will be required to carry certificates proving that they are not from the five banned areas, while some will also need “radiation inspection certificates,” according to the Taiwan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare.

In March, Taiwanese authorities recalled hundreds of Japanese food items that had falsified labels hiding the fact that they came from regions affected by radioactive fallout, they said.

“The measures are necessary to . . . protect Taiwanese consumers’ health and welfare. The government and (food) companies should work together to provide safe food products,” the ministry said in a statement.

Japanese food products are popular in Taiwan. The local Apple Daily newspaper reported that stocks of some best-selling chocolates and prepackaged french fries could run out within three months due to delays caused by the new requirements.

Japan has pledged to investigate the false labeling jointly with Taiwan and urged the island nation to reverse the new restrictions.

“Falsified labels of product origins and food safety are different issues. We will continue to let Taiwanese people understand the safety of Japanese food and hope the Taiwanese authorities can further loosen its controls,” Japan’s de facto embassy in Taipei said in a statement.

Taiwan and Japan maintain close trade ties even though Tokyo switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1972.

Taiwan is the third-largest export market for Japanese foods and agricultural products, after Hong Kong and the United States, with ¥83.7 billion worth of shipments last year.

Taiwan’s government has been stepping up food safety measures after the nation was rocked by a string of food scandals in recent years. ”


Tepco could improve handling of radioactive waste at wrecked Fukushima plant, IAEA says — The Japan Times

After reading the information provided on this blog, I’ll let your decided whether the IAEA is making a fair assessment of TEPCO’s cleanup “progress” at Fukushima Daiichi.

The Japan Times: ” VIENNA – The United Nations nuclear watchdog said Thursday the management of radioactive waste and contaminated water at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant could be improved despite “good progress” in cleaning up the site.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said in February it had found a pool of highly contaminated water on the roof of a plant building and that it had probably leaked into the sea through a gutter when it rained.

The finding comes four years after a massive earthquake and tsunami caused three meltdowns at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Some of the leaks have been dealt with, the International Atomic Energy Agency said. Efforts have included filling and covering of gaps, recovering contaminated soil and treating surfaces to prevent rainwater from leaking.

“While acknowledging these efforts, the IAEA experts encourage Tepco to continue to focus on finding any other sources contaminating the channels,” the agency said in a report released on Thursday.

Tepco’s decision to create a new branch 2014 that focuses on decontamination and decommissioning work at the plant was a good step toward defining responsibility for the cleanup more clearly, the IAEA said.

Still, there was room for improvement in how the body handles radioactive waste, for example by employing more complete waste characterization and packaging, it added.

The cleanup entity “could better employ long-term radioactive waste management principles (beyond the segregation, relocation and dose reduction/shielding currently performed),” the agency said.

“While recognizing the usefulness of the large number of water treatment systems deployed by Tepco for decontaminating and thereby ensuring highly radioactive water . . . is not inappropriately released . . ., the IAEA team also notes that currently not all of these systems are operating to their full design capacity and performance,” it added.

The IAEA will send a team to Japan this month to collect water samples from the sea near the Fukushima plant to help Japanese authorities with radioactive data collection and analysis. ”


LDP wants Fukushima evac orders lifted early in some areas by end of fiscal 2016 — The Japan Times

” A task force in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party plans to ask the government to lift evacuation orders for areas with “relatively low” radiation around the meltdown-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant by the end of fiscal 2016.

The politicians want to speed up residents’ return to radiation-tainted areas and discussed measures, including lifting the evacuation orders, at a general meeting Thursday.

The Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant was heavily damaged by a triple meltdown after losing all power following submersion by tsunami spawned by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. The resulting radiation contamination tainted wide swaths of Fukushima and other parts of east Japan.

The group now hopes the government will give evacuated residents the option of returning to risk doses as high as 50 millisieverts a year, by the end of March 2017.

Lifting the orders would give about 55,000 residents the option of recovering their homes.

According to the outline, the orders would be lifted no later than six years after the nuclear crisis began.

By setting a deadline, the LDP wants raise evacuees’ hopes of returning.

The LDP plans to discuss the idea with its coalition ally, Komeito, and submit it to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as a joint proposal by the end of this month.

The outline also calls for accelerating infrastructure recovery and decontamination in the areas. It says the government should instruct Tepco to duly consider providing financial compensation for psychological pain even if the evacuation orders are lifted earlier than the March 2017 deadline. ”


US restricts food import from Japan over radionuclide contamination concern — People’s Daily Online

People’s Daily Online: ” The United States has recently tightened restriction of food import from Japan. According to Import Alert 99-33 issued by US FDA, a list of Japanese food will be banned unless they pass physical examination, which includes milk, butter, milk-based infant formula, and other milk products; vegetables and vegetable products; rice and whole grain; fish; meat and poultry; venus clam; sea urchin; yuzu fruit; Kiwi fruit. FAD indicates that revision to this import alert is due to radionuclide contamination.

FDA says it will continue consultation with Japanese government to ensure products from the affected prefectures do not pose a health risk to US consumers. FDA will continue monitoring the public health risks due to radionuclide contamination, and when appropriate will remove the Import Alert and resume routine coverage of entries. ”


Strong 6.8 earthquake detected off Japan’s east coast as tremors reached land — UPI

” TOKYO, May 12 (UPI) — A strong 6.8 earthquake was detected off Japan’s east coast, but no deaths or damage have been reported.

The quake reached the same region that was destroyed by a deadly earthquake in 2011, on the main Japanese island of Honshu, reported RT.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey and the Japan Meteorological Agency, the earthquake struck at 6:13 a.m. local time, at a depth of nearly 50 kilometers, or 31 miles.

The two government agencies differed on the magnitude of the quake.

The USGS reported 6.9, while the JMA gauged a 6.6-level earthquake.

The Japan Meteorological Agency also did not issue a tsunami warning, and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said a “destructive Pacific-wide tsunami” is not expected.

Tohoku Electric Co., which runs the Onagawa nuclear power plant, said there were no irregularities at the plant, NBC News reported.

Operators at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant said no issues have resulted in the aftermath of Wednesday’s earthquake.

Some bullet train services were disrupted as tracks were checked for damage, according to NHK.

Japanese agency officials said the earthquake was observed from northeastern Japan, all the way to Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island.

According to NHK, no major damage has been reported but it was the strongest earthquake to hit Japan since 2011. ”


Fukushima watch: Cesium-absorbing canola project triples in size — The Wall Street Journal

” A bright yellow expanse of canola flowers about 25 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is providing more than just a blaze of color: The flowers are also helping to remove radioactive cesium from the soil.

The flowers were planted as part of a project aimed at decontaminating land and generating power in Minamisoma, a coastal city that straddles the edge of the evacuation zone around the Fukushima plant.

For Kiyoshige Sugiuchi, a 65-year old farmer from Minamisoma, the blooming flowers represent progress in the project run by a group of seven farmers and volunteers. He says the area covered by the flowers has tripled in size since the project started in autumn 2013 with a much smaller plot of 4.7 hectares.

The goal of the project is to create a chain of decontamination and power generation, using a biomass power station to make electricity from methane given off by fermenting canola.

Cesium is now virtually the sole cause of radioactive contamination in the area around Fukushima. Canola has been used to absorb cesium in areas surrounding Chernobyl to decontaminate farmlands there, but it only absorbs a small amount of cesium each time. It will therefore take many years to decontaminate the soil in Minamisoma.

Methane is produced by fermenting the canola leaves, stalks and roots, though the fermented residue has to be treated as low level radioactive waste. Canola oil, also known as rapeseed oil, can also be extracted from the seeds without any cesium content.

So far, the canola project is being run on a volunteer basis with some donations. The team is also selling the oil to raise money, though not in large volumes yet.

“In this area, rice was the main commercial product. But it’s difficult to get back the past as it was, given that many consumers are avoiding food from Fukushima. We have to come up with a new business model that doesn’t rely very much on markets in the outside world,” Mr. Sugiuchi said. ”