Taiwan Enforces Stricter Food Imports from Japan

Taiwan on Friday began enforcing stricter rules on inspecting imported Japanese food products potentially originating in radiation-exposed areas, prompting a warning from Tokyo that it may call on the World Trade Organization for a ruling unless the restrictions are eased.

The new rules will only allow foods with Japanese government-issued place of origin certificates to enter Taiwan. On top of that, certain items from designated places in Japan will need radiation testing reports before they are granted access into Taiwan markets.

Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration said the latest enforcement was in line with radiation safety management practices that other countries have put in place on Japanese food imports following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

It said it is “necessary to protect the safety of food consumption” for Taiwanese.

But Japan is protesting the move, with the government warning that it may escalate the matter to the WTO, potentially deepening the conflict between Taipei and Tokyo.

“Japan’s government would like to urge Taiwan to scrap or ease the import restrictions based on scientific perspective,” said Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s top government spokesman said at a news conference on Friday in Tokyo.

His comments follow a similar message from Agricultural Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi on Tuesday that Tokyo may look to involve the WTO if Taiwan didn’t ease off on its regulations.

In January, Fukushima rice passed Japan’s radiation checks for the first time since the 2011 crisis.

Earlier this year, Taiwanese authorities said that more than 200 Japanese food products sold on the island originally came from radiation exposed areas near Fukushima Dai-ichi, but were mislabeled as having come from other areas.

Health officials at the time indicated they discovered suspect labeling by importers of Japanese food products, including Chinese-language labels carrying different places of origin that were stuck to mask the products’ domestic Japanese labels.

Taiwanese media reported in March that food products, from the Japanese prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gumma and Chiba, which were banned in Taiwan since March 2011, had crept into local supermarkets due to the mislabeling.

Taiwan is the third-largest market for Japanese exports of food and agricultural, forest and fishery products.

Fracking Radiation

Radioactive waste produced by hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is making headlines all over gas land, particularly in North Dakota’s booming Bakken gas and oil field.

National news coverage of the scandalous illegal dumping of radioactive filter “socks” there  — on Indian Reservations no less — has led North Dakota’s legislature to consider changes to its radioactive waste laws so that fracking’s contaminated wastes can be dumped in ordinary landfills.

One current bill would permit fracking’s radioactive waste in state landfills to be contaminated with 10 times the radioactivity that state law now allows — as long as it’s covered with 10 feet of dirt. Radioactive fracking waste that’s not being illegally discarded — no Victoria, mobster dumping probably hasn’t ended — is supposed to be being trucked out of state.
ND House Bills 1113 and 1114 — reportedly requested by the State Health Department — are being contested by some law makers and journalists who question the right of the department to set its own rules.

The ND Newspaper Association and the ND Broadcasters Association complained that one bill eliminates mandatory public hearings about landfill rule changes and instead permits them “when appropriate.” The bill also cancels public notification of the permitting process for disposition of radioactive materials.

Dave Glatt of the State Health Department told the Bismarck Tribunethat his agency commissioned Argon National Laboratory in Chicago to study the issue and make recommendations. The department wanted to know “radiation limits that would be safe for workers and the public.” Glatt forgets that there are no safe radiation doses, only legally permitted ones.

Locals are Worried
“We don’t want to have, when this oil and coal is gone, nothing left here, a wasteland, and I’m afraid that’s what might happen,” said Underwood farmer Gene Wirtz to KXNET news reporter Ben Smith in January. Wirtz is worried about the increased radioactivity in local landfills. “Any amount of radiation beyond what you’re already getting is not a good thing,” he said.
Radioactive isotopes that contaminate fracking industry waste and its machinery include radon, radium-226, uranium-238, and thorium-232. According to the Health Department’s website, these long-lived radioactive pollutants come in six forms:

* “Produced water” which is injected underground but later brought to the surface as waste;
* “Sulfate scales,” which are hard, insoluble deposits that accumulate on frack sand and inside drilling and processing equipment;
* Contaminated soil and machinery;
* Filter socks, contaminated by  filtering “produced water”;
* Synthetic “proppants” or sand; and
* Sludge and “filter cake” solids of mud, sand, scale and rust that  precipitate or are filtered out of contaminated “produced water. They build up in “filter socks,” and in waste water pipes and storage tanks that can leak.

A case in point came Jan.  6, 2015, when three-million gallons of waste water sprang from a North Dakota pipeline rupture, in Williams County north of Williston, the biggest ever in the current Bakken oil rush. Attempted containment of the leak was underway January 23 as berms were set up across Blacktail Creek to prevent the waste water from flowing into the Missouri River. The New York Times reported that the leaked waste water “may contain residue from hydraulic fracturing.”

Forbes-online Calls Potential for Harm “No Problem”
Writing Jan. 26 in Forbes online, James Conca turned upside-down the results of a recent Pennsylvania study of the risks of radiation exposure from gas fracking wastes. Mr. Conca’s column was headed, “Radiation from Fracking? No Problemo.”

The Penn. Department of Environmental Protection studied so-called “Technologically-Enhanced Naturally-Occurring Radioactive Material” or TENORM, and analyzed the levels of radioactivity associated with oil and gas extraction in the state.

Mr. Conca wrote that the PDEP study found there is “no concern of radiation exposure from fracking wells for oil or gas.

But on the contrary, the PDEP found explicitly warns of increased radiation risk from various aspects of fracking.

In particular, the PDEP report warned of:
* Limited potential for radiation exposure to the public and workers from the development, completion, production, transmission, processing, storage, and end use of natural gas;
* Potential radiological environmental impacts from fluids if spilled; and
* Little potential for radiation exposure to the public and workers from landfills receiving waste from the oil and gas industry.
* The PDEP report said there was a need for further study of the impacts of radiation from the use of “brine” or “saltwater” or so-called “produced water” from the industry since some of it is now being spread around for” dust suppression” and “road stabilization.”

Forbes trivialized and denied Pennsylvania’s formal warning, but it did say this: “With 15 million Americans living within a mile from a fracking well, this is an important result.”

Food radiation risks low after 2011 accident in Japan

A groundbreaking analysis from Colorado State University shows that radiation levels in food grown near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant dropped quickly and likely posed minor health risks after the plant’s meltdown and release of radioactive materials four years ago this week.

But the CSU researchers also identified a possible future public health threat that may have been underestimated so far. Georg Steinhauser, an assistant professor in CSU’s Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, co-authored a paper published March 3 by Environmental Science & Technologycalled “Analysis of Japanese Radionuclide Monitoring Data of Food Before and After the Fukushima Nuclear Accident.”

In it, he and his graduate student Stefan Merz of the Vienna University of Technology in Austria draw conclusions from hundreds of pages of data — detailing more than 900,000 samples — that the Japanese collected on radiation levels in the food supply after the meltdown. A third co-author, Katsumi Shozugawa, who hosted a CSU graduate student at the University of Tokyo last summer, also made key contributions to the project.

Serendipitous discovery
Merz said he was lucky to stumble across the massive amount of information online while searching to validate some previous findings on radiation in the area. “Looking back, I would say my encounter with the data was something in between coincidental finding at the roadside and a well-planned hunt,” he said. “Although the search was a tough and tiring process, the real work started only after I had found the data.”

“Initially, I don’t think he realized what a treasure trove this is,” Steinhauser recalled, adding that nothing like this was done after the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl. “It was 20 megabytes of just data – no graphics, just Excel spread sheets. The Japanese were monitoring these things with great effort. I doubt any other country would have been capable of doing it. This was unprecedented in human history.”

The Japanese had collected the readings, but hadn’t analyzed them yet, so Merz and Steinhauser dove into the measurements and discovered that a few months after the accident, only a handful of vegetable samples in the area exceeded regulatory limits for a radionuclide called radiocesium. “We can conclude that the number of people getting an unacceptably high exposure was probably very, very low,” Steinhauser said.

Japanese response
He added that in the first few months, when radiation levels in local vegetables were high, it’s clear that the Japanese were using their findings to weed out possibly dangerous food before it went to market. “It was an incredibly successful effort by Japan to gather this and keep the people safe,” Steinhauser said. “The fact that they have this data means they were also acting on it and removing products before they got to the consumer.”
The accident occurred on March 11, 2011. By mid-July, there were a couple of weeks where none of the vegetables that Steinhauser and Merz studied exceeded acceptable radiation limits. Meat showed a similar pattern, although it took several months for radiocesium to show up in samples because it takes time for animals to eat enough contaminated food to detect a measurable effect. Levels of radiation in cattle spiked during the summer but were below the regulatory safety line by the end of that year.

“I think that this paper provides very important insight regarding radionuclides in Japanese foodstuffs,” said Kathryn Higley, a CSU alum and head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics at Oregon State University. “Many of the mathematical models that we employ to estimate exposure and dose from radionuclides in foodstuffs are based on the Western diet. This work gives us insight into the relative uptake of radiocesium into food sources that are normally not included in our models.”

A possible threat
The other conclusion from the team’s research concerns a second radioactive material, strontium-90, which Steinhauser said was not included in the Japanese data they analyzed. Scientists have long thought that levels of strontium-90, which is much harder to measure than radiocesium, stay within a 10 percent range of radiocesium.
But in perhaps the most striking finding of the study, the team examined old nuclear weapons testing data from the 1950s and 1960s and discovered that while levels of the two substances remain similar initially, over time the amount of Strontium-90 that lives on in the environment is significantly higher than the amount of radiocesium.

Steinhauser said radiocesium is more easily absorbed by minerals in soil and is harder for plants to take in than strontium-90, which is more mobile and readily transmitted into plants for a longer period of time. Their final recommendation in the paper is for the Japanese to begin testing for strontium-90 in food products as well, to monitor its long-term impacts.

“The currently valid regulatory limits in Japan and Europe are based on potentially erroneous assumptions concerning the occurrence of strontium-90 in foodstuffs,” Merz said. “In politics and even in the scientific field of physics this topic may not be very popular; for the sake of human health it was definitely necessary to shed some light on this question. Many scientists in Japan and globally are concerned about the current strontium-90 policy. In our study, we present evidence that this concern is actually quite real.”

Nuke leak probe focuses on Los Alamos National Lab

A state regulator says officials investigating a radiation leak from the government’s underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico have turned their focus to Los Alamos National Laboratory.

New Mexico Environment Department General Counsel Jeff Kendall said Thursday that the Department of Energy’s accident investigation team has been at the lab in northeastern New Mexico for about three weeks.

Kendall said that probe is one of just nine underway into what caused a barrel of toxic waste from Los Alamos to burst at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico, contaminating 22 workers and shuttering the nation’s only permanent repository for waste from nuclear bomb building.

Kendall made the comments during a New Mexico Court of Appeals hearing on a dispute with a watchdog group over the permitting process for WIPP.