The European Union has lifted all import restrictions on food, including fish, produced near the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan just as Tokyo prepares to release treated radioactive wastewater into the ocean.
The bloc’s move follows positive results from tests carried out on the products by the Japanese authorities and EU member states, the European Commission said in a statement Thursday.
“We have taken this decision based on science, based on evidence and based on the assessment of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters.
After a meltdown at the Fukushima plant in 2011 following an earthquake and a tsunami, the EU restricted food imports from 10 prefectures in Japan and started requiring pre-export tests on food products for radioactivity. It has since regularly reviewed the measures and progressively eased them “as risks declined,” the European Commission said.
Its announcement comes shortly after the International Atomic Energy Agency approved Japan’s controversial plan to pump wastewater from the nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean. The government has said the release will begin this summer, though it has not specified a date.
The nuclear watchdog has insisted the planned measure is safe, meets international standards and matches practices by nuclear plants around the world, including those in the United States. The treated contaminated water will be highly diluted and released gradually into the ocean over many years.
However, those assurances have failed to quell fears about the safety of Japan’s food exports among several of its neighbors, including South Korea.
On Wednesday, Hong Kong, one of the world’s top buyers of Japan’s fish, said it would ban seafood imports from 10 prefectures in the country if Tokyo pressed ahead with the wastewater release.
And earlier this month, China announced it would maintain a ban on food imports from 10 Japanese prefectures including Fukushima, and strengthen inspections to monitor for “radioactive substances, to ensure the safety of Japanese food imports to China.”
In its Thursday statement, the European Commission urged the Japanese government to continue monitoring domestic food production for radioactivity.
“This includes in particular fish, fishery products and seaweed close to the release site of the contaminated cooling water… It is also important that the Japanese government makes all the results publicly available,” it said.
— Mohammed Tawfeeq in Atlanta contributed reporting.
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