Bracing for a radioactive crisis

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Bracing for a radioactive crisis

The leakage of radioactive water from Japan’s Fukushima reactor complex, which was crippled from an earthquake and tsunami more than two years ago, is ever-worsening. It turns out that 300 tons of radioactive groundwater has been leaking from the underground sections of the reactor every day, some of it reaching the ocean. And last week we learned that an additional 300 tons of highly radioactive water leaked from a storage tank into the ground.

Leaks from two other similar storage tanks are also feared. Local media reported that radiation levels in sea waters near the adjacent port shot up 8-to-18-times higher in just a week. Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority last week raised the severity level of radioactive leaks at the Fukushima plant from one to three on the international scale for radioactive accidents.

With growing fears about the contaminated waters pouring into the Pacific, waters that Korea shares, Prime Minister Chung Hong-won presided over a cabinet meeting to discuss food safety and other measures last week. Chung advised against unnecessarily scaring people with wild rumors about sea radiation. Earlier this month he ordered a crackdown on the promulgation of wild rumors about fisheries from Japan. But the gravity of radiation leakage has become too real a problem to be dismissed as groundless rumors.

The prime minister ordered officials to report on radiation levels in Korea and safety checks on foreign fisheries every two weeks. But these measures will hardly ease public jitters. Even the ruling Saenuri Party is demanding a full ban on the import of agricultural and fishery products from Japan.

The current ban on 50 kinds of fishery products from eight prefectures around Fukushima should be extended to all sea products from the affected regions. Fishery products from other areas should be returned to Japan upon detection of just a small amount of radiation. Quarantine supervision and checks should also be reinforced, particularly considering the widespread public distrust over the labelling of product origin. We cannot simply rely on the Japanese government to protect our food safety, given the way it has handled and responded to the leakage crisis. Neighboring countries have the right to demand accurate information and strong safety actions from Tokyo.
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