Civic group to travel to Japan to check radiation levels

A civic group opposed to the government’s plan to lift a ban on food and agricultural produce from radiation- affected prefectures in Japan will travel to Japan later this month to measure radiation levels itself.

In opposing the plan to lift the ban on Friday, Green Consumers’ Foundation Chairman Jay Fang (方儉) said that while a government team went to Japan in August to learn more about the situation there, it did not have its own radiation detection and inspection equipment.

Instead, he said, the team relied entirely on data provided by the Japanese side, and the report provided was very “rough.”

Given such uncertainty, Fang said he and three others will head to 25 locations in six prefectures — Chiba, Fukushima, Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki and Yamanashi — to check on radiation levels in the food and the environment for themselves on Nov. 22.

Taiwan has suspended food imports from the Japanese prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba since March 25, 2011 because of fears of radioactive contamination in those areas from a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant that was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The government announced it would hold 10 public hearings on Japanese food entering Taiwan for three consecutive days starting Saturday amid reports that it will soon lift the ban on imported food items from the five radiation-affected prefectures except Fukushima.

Fang stressed that he himself has two-and-half years of experience in performing lab tests and that his companions also have three decades of related experience.

He stressed that they are “qualified personnel” and that their equipment meets International Atomic Energy Agency standards.

The inspection will take place mainly in fields, and they will also collect samples of local produce for testing.

Fang said the equipment could detect radiation levels in as quickly as three seconds.

The inspections will be streamed live on his Facebook page, and he welcomed the government to follow them online.

In addition to Fang, several civic groups have expressed their opposition to the opening.

Tsai Ya-ying (蔡雅瑩), a lawyer affiliated with the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, said that while several food items meet the standards, they may still have 100 or even 300 Becquerels/kilogram of cesium.

She urged the government to formulate necessary trade management measures for the sake of the health of the country’s people.

Yang Kuo-cheng (楊國禎), head of the Taiwan Academy of Ecology, said the impact of radiation builds up gradually over time and that there has been too little time since the first atomic bomb was dropped in Japan in 1945 to assess how radioactive substances affect on biological evolution.

“Taiwan has no need to be used as a guinea pig by Japan,” he said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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