HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s leader said on Tuesday he strongly opposes Japan’s release into the sea of treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant and the city would “immediately activate” import controls on Japanese seafood.
Japan will on Thursday begin releasing more than a million tons of water from the plant north of Tokyo, insisting it is safe to do so. The plant was wrecked in a 2011 tsunami and the water has mostly been used to cool damaged reactors.
Though approved by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the plan to dump the water has faced opposition at home and abroad, including from China, over worries about food safety.
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee said the release was “irresponsible” and posed “impossible risks to food safety and the irreparable pollution and destruction of the marine environment”.
Lee, in a post on his Facebook account, said he had told the secretary for the environment and ecology and relevant departments to immediately activate import controls to protect food safety and public health.
Hong Kong’s government announced in July that the ban would apply to imported aquatic products from the Japanese regions of Tokyo, Fukushima, Chiba, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Gunma, Miyagi, Niigata, Nagano and Saitama.
It covers live, frozen, refrigerated, dried aquatic products, sea salt and seaweed.
Hong Kong is Japan’s second largest market, after mainland China, for agricultural and fisheries exports.
Japanese restaurants are popular in the special administrative region and Japan is a favourite holiday destination for many residents.
Many Japanese restaurants in the city are grappling with the looming ban, with some planning to add more meat to their menus as they anticipate losses of up to 40%.
(Reporting by Twinnie Siu, Joyce Zhou and Farah Master; Editing by Edmund Klamann, Robert Birsel)