— China issues warning on Fukushima radiation

From Global Times
By Xuyang Jingjing in Tokyo and Zhang Yiqian in Beijing
February 15, 2017

○ The Chinese Embassy in Japan issued a warning over Fukushima radiation last Sunday, causing panic in China

○ Meanwhile, in Japan, everything went on normally, tourists and residents remain largely unaffected by the matter

○ In recent years, as the popularity of Japan as a tourist destination increases, Chinese people have developed a love-hate relationship with their neighbor. Any political rift or societal change between the two countries can cause large-scale effects.

An update of an old issue in Japan has sent ripples across the East China Sea to shake China. After the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced its latest analysis of the inside of its crippled nuclear plant in Fukushima that showed the radiation level there has seemingly risen from 73 sieverts per hour to 530 – a potentially lethal dose – the news has been traveling fast on the Chinese Internet.

[Editor: This was misinformation; the reading was taken in an new area that TEPCO had not been able to measure before — it was not an increase. Experts say that as they are able to get farther inside, they will find higher measurements.

From Helen Caldicott: The radiation measurement was 530 sieverts, or 53,000 rems (Roentgen Equivalent for Man). The dose at which half an exposed population would die is 250 to 500 rems. So “potentially” lethal is a lie. This radiation level is even frying robots.]

Last Sunday, the Chinese Embassy in Japan issued a safety warning in reaction to this announcement, telling Chinese citizens to manage their travel plans to avoid potential radiation risks that may come if nuclear material leaks out into the surrounding environment. The warning caused even more discussion and when rumors started spreading, many Chinese became worried, some even canceling their trips to Japan.

Business as usual

A couple of weeks after the news came out, people in Japan seemed as calm and reserved as ever. There are still many Chinese tourists on the streets and in shops. According to Chinese tourism agencies, their business has been basically unaffected.

The director of a large Chinese travel agency told the Global Times last Sunday that Fukushima wasn’t a regular travel destination for Chinese tourists anyway, and the company doesn’t offer any travel packages there.

Li Dan, manager of a branch of the Beijing-based Tianping International Travel Agency, said that there haven’t been any tour groups traveling to Fukushima since the 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami. She also said that even tourists who travel independently do not usually go to Fukushima.

Last week, Will Davis, a member of the American Nuclear Society, refuted claims that radiation levels are soaring at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant as “demonstrably false.” In a post on the society’s blog, Davis wrote that the readings have not changed and that TEPCO’s reported 530 sieverts per hour estimate was not “unimaginable” or particularly worrying.

His argument is that rather than a real increase from 73 to 530 sieverts, the 530 reading is simply a more accurate estimate of the radiation level at a particularly affected area that has remained relatively unchanged over the past few years.

Compared with China, news of the radiation levels in Fukushima has not generated much discussion in Japan. The responses from the media or public to the Chinese safety alert are also few.

For people living in Tokyo, three hours’ drive from Fukushima, life has continued as usual. While they feel a little concerned whenever such reports come out, they are not actively worried in their daily lives, several Japanese white-collar workers said.

For people trying to get their lives back to normal in the affected area, their biggest headache and frustration is the bad reputation and rumors that dog their agricultural products.

In supermarkets, consumers who are concerned about radiation contamination choose more expensive products from different areas over cheaper product from Fukushima. Local residents, NGOs and governments are still working to scrub the stain off the reputation of food produced in Fukushima.

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