(Updates with details on government response plan in ninth paragraph.)
Sept. 6 (Bloomberg) -- South Korea banned imports of fish caught near the site of the Fukushima nuclear accident over concerns of radioactive contamination from the plant.
The ban affects marine products from eight prefectures, including Fukushima, where the 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated the plant, causing the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. Some of the fishing grounds were already closed. The decision came after the Japanese government revealed last month that 300 tons of contaminated water leaked from the site, with some making it to the ocean.
“The decision was made as public concerns are growing after radiation-contaminated water has leaked from the Fukushima nuclear plant,” Prime Minister Chung Hong Won’s office said in an e-mailed statement. “It’s uncertain how this situation has developed in Japan and it’s difficult to predict the future only with the information provided by Japan so far.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said this week that he would end what he called the country’s ad-hoc response to dealing with Fukushima as the government announced plans to spend more than $470 million to stop the leaks. The new concerns about Fukushima may also weigh on Tokyo’s prospects of being chosen to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. With a decision expected tomorrow, Tokyo is favored to win though its odds have declined in recent days, according to betting websites.
Japanese food and water are already subjected to the world’s toughest inspection standards, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said when he was asked about the South Korean decision at a briefing today in Tokyo.
“International standards are enforced on Japanese food, including marine products,” he said. “We have strict safety management based on that. In cases where tests show radiation is above the standards, we prevent shipping and so these products will not be distributed to the market.”
Suga said the radioactive water that leaked into the sea only affected an area of 0.3 square kilometers (0.12 square miles) within the bay surrounding the Fukushima plant.
Even within that area, radiation levels are “far below those permitted,” he said. “There is absolutely no effect.”
The Japanese government is struggling to find ways of dealing with the hundreds of thousands of tons of contaminated water building up at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant. The government’s latest plan calls for building an underground frozen wall to block groundwater from flowing into basements at the plant and an improved water treatment plant, according to Trade and Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.
--With assistance from Takashi Hirokawa in Tokyo. Editors: Andrew Davis, Stuart Biggs