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September 06, 2013

S. Korea Expands Ban on Fukushima Fish Imports

by VOA News

South Korea is banning the import of fish products from more areas surrounding Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, where radioactive water continues to leak into the ocean.

Seoul government spokesman Shin Joong-don said Friday the move will ban imports from eight prefectures, including Fukushima. He said South Korea would also expand its testing of Japanese fish from other areas.

"The measures are due to the sharp increase in public concern about the flow of hundreds of tons of contaminated water into the ocean at the site of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan," said Shin. "Our government made the decision as it is unclear how the Japanese crisis will progress and it will be difficult to precisely predict the future risk with the Japanese government data only."

The operator of Fukushima recently acknowledged that hundreds of tons of toxic water have been leaking into the nearby ocean. The water was used to cool the reactors, which were damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered a nuclear meltdown.

South Korea, which already had a partial ban of Japanese fish in place, said the latest measures will last indefinitely.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yosihide Suga said it hopes Seoul makes such a decision on the basis of "scientific data." He said the safety of Japan's water and food is "perfectly secured."

"Since the nuclear accident, we're adopting the world's highest level of safety standards and implementing strict inspections and controls on food exports," said Suga.

Japan's government recently stepped up its efforts to help the controversy-plagued Tokyo Electric Power Company clean up and decommission the site - a process that could take decades. Tens of thousands of people remain displaced, two and a half years after the crisis began.