Source: economist    2011-06-07  我要投稿   论坛   Favorite  

The prompt dissemination of accurate information is not happening, though. By April 6th TEPCO had managed to staunch the leakage of highly contaminated water from one of the damaged reactors that had produced levels of radioactive iodine 7.5m times the legal limit in one sample of seawater. But that was not before fishermen about 70km south of the plant had caught tiny sand-eels, known as konago, with larger than normal traces of radioactive iodine and caesium. The unwelcome discovery prompted Naoto Kan, the prime minister, to issue a new safety standard for levels of radioactivity in marine products. Knowing the public’s fears of unsafe food (and no doubt encouraged by the promise of compensation), the local konago fishermen had already pulled in their nets for the season.


The fear of contamination is spreading internationally, too, and the government is learning that it is not enough just to present scientific evidence about radiation levels. On April 6th India suspended all Japanese food imports. Neighbouring South Korea expressed concern that it was not warned about TEPCO’s decision to dump low-level radioactive waste into the sea to make room to store more toxic stuff on land. South Korea does not share a sea with Fukushima. But South Korea, like Japan, has a vibrant seafood culture. Rational or not, perceptions matter.


With more emotion than sense, electronic components, machine parts and even towels made far from Fukushima have required radiation checks or been turned back by Italy and China, among others. The Japanese authorities have not helped by falling back on technocracy rather than a more sympathetic response. Shippers have urged the government to issue certificates that would assure foreign ports that goods are radiation-free. Instead, Japan expends its energies mainly attempting to convince shippers about the safely low levels of radiation in the country at large. “The question is how to reduce anxiety, not present science,” says Katsunori Nemoto of Keidanren, Japan’s business lobby.


At a time when the Japanese economy needs help, to date around 50 countries have imposed restrictions on Japanese imports. America, which buys one-sixth of Japanese farm exports, has put products from Fukushima and three other prefectures on a watch list. The European Union has named a dozen prefectures that need radiation tests, yet traders in these places report a lack of testing equipment. In one case, says an executive at a Japanese trading house, tuna that arrived in America was set aside by customs, rotting before it was inspected. A sake brewer on a sales trip to Las Vegas noticed that Japanese food was off the menu at hotels.



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