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‘Nuclear food referendum’: Taiwan’s softening of Fukushima ban under threat amid ballot calls

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10-Sep-2018 By Pearly Neo
Japan’s hopes that the Taiwan government will lift the current ban on foods from Fukushima and surrounding areas has hit another hurdle after Kuomintang, the largest opposition party in Taiwan, submitted a referendum request on what has been dubbed ‘anti-nuclear food’.
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September 10, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Safety from Japanese Radiation Contaminated Food Import Should or Should Not Be a Political Issue?

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‘Don’t politicize Japanese food import issue’: official

2018/07/31
Taipei, July 31 (CNA) A Taiwan official on Tuesday urged all sides not to politicize food safety after Japan’s top envoy to Taiwan last week raised concerns over an opposition party-initiated referendum to prevent the government lifting an import ban on food from radiation-affected areas of Japan.
 
The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) held an event on July 24 to promote a referendum bid it initiated to prevent the government lifting a ban on the import of food products from five radiation-affected prefectures in Japan — Gunma, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba — following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in 2011.
 
Following the KMT event, Japan’s top envoy to Taiwan Mikio Numata (沼田幹夫) issued an open letter to the public, calling the KMT’s move “deeply disappointing,” while urging Taiwan to lift the ban that he said was imposed “without any scientific basis.” Failure to do so could harm the friendly relationship between Japan and Taiwan, he added.
 
Asked to comment, Taiwan-Japan Relations Association (TJRA) Secretary-General Chang Shu-ling (張淑玲), said as a democratic country governed by the rule of law, the government has no right to stop people exercising their civil right to initiate a referendum.
 
She reiterated that the government will do everything possible to safeguard public health, adding that the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which is in charge of food safety, will make the final decision on whether to lift the ban.
 
Chang called on all sides to remain clam and rational as food safety is a highly specialized issue and should not be politicized in ways that adversely impact Taiwan’s trade and economic relations with other countries.
 
The foreign ministry-funded TJRA handles Taiwan-Japan relations in the absence of official diplomatic ties.
 
Since returning to power in May 2016, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration has said it is considering lifting the ban but has run into heavy opposition. No progress has been made on the issue since then.
 
 

Food safety issue should not be politicized: official

Aug 01, 2018
Food safety should not be politicized, a top diplomat said yesterday, after Japan’s representative to Taiwan last week raised concerns over a proposed referendum to prevent the government from lifting an import ban on food from Japanese prefectures linked to a 2011 nuclear power plant disaster.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) on Tuesday last week held an event to promote the referendum bid it initiated to prevent the government from lifting a ban on the import of food products from Japan’s Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures that was imposed following the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster in March 2011.
Japanese Representative to Taiwan Mikio Numata later issued an open letter calling the KMT’s move “deeply disappointing” and urging Taiwan to lift the ban, which he said was imposed “without any scientific basis.”
Failure to do so could harm the friendly relationship between Japan and Taiwan, he added.
Asked to comment on Numata’s remarks, Taiwan-Japan Relations Association Secretary-General Chang Shu-ling (張淑玲) said that as Taiwan is a democratic nation governed by the rule of law, the government has no right to stop people from exercising their civil right to initiate a referendum.
However, the government would do everything possible to safeguard public health, she said, adding that the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which is in charge of food safety, would make a final decision on whether to lift the ban.
Chang called on all sides to remain calm and rational, as food safety is a highly specialized issue and should not be politicized in ways that adversely affect Taiwan’s trade and economic relations with other nations.
The association, which is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, handles Taiwan-Japan relations in the absence of official diplomatic ties.
Since returning to power in May 2016, the Democratic Progressive Party administration has said it is considering lifting the ban, but the effort has been met with heavy opposition.

August 6, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Japanese 100-yen shop slapped with fine, 2-year import ban in Taiwan

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TAIPEI (Kyodo) — Taiwan authorities said Wednesday that Japanese 100-yen shop chain Daiso has been fined NT$41.64 million (US$1.38 million) for falsifying import application documents and banned from importing goods from Japan for two years.

Foreign Trade Bureau deputy chief Lee Guann-jyh told a legislative committee that the punishments have been meted out to Hiroshima-based Daiso Industries Co., which has been operating in Taiwan since 2001 and has about 60 stories here.
 
In November 2015, Daiso received a six-month import ban for having illegally imported food products from parts of Japan affected by 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster between July 2014 and March 2015, and selling them with falsified labels of origin.
 
During that six-month period, Daiso could still import goods from Japan on a case-by-case basis after obtaining permission from the bureau.
 
But in doing so, it falsified the dates of the imported goods, altering them to predate the six-month ban period that began in November 2015. A total of 694 import application documents were fraudulent, according to the bureau.
On April 27, the company held a press conference in which it apologized to Taiwanese consumers.
 

May 24, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Dynamics of Nuclear Power Policy in the Post-Fukushima Era: Interest Structure and Politicisation in Japan, Taiwan and Korea

Abstract
This article compares the different trajectories of nuclear power policy in Japan, Taiwan and Korea in the post-Fukushima era. The Fukushima nuclear accident ratcheted up the level of contention between civil activism and supporters of nuclear power in all three states. The result of this contention has been decided by the combined effects of two factors – interest structure (complexity vs simplicity) and politicisation (national level vs local level). In terms of scope, policy change has taken place in Taiwan, Japan and Korea in that order. This analysis contributes to a balanced understanding of both structural constraints and the political process in which each actor, and in particular civil activism, is able to manoeuvre.
Introduction
In the wake of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “atoms for peace” speech at the United Nations General Assembly in December 1953, the United States signed bilateral atomic energy cooperation agreements with its allies, including Japan, Korea and Taiwan. By providing those allies with nuclear technology, Washington intended to strengthen its defence and foreign policy, the centrepiece of which was the maintenance of nuclear hegemony and containment of the Soviet Union (Medhurst, 1997 Medhurst, M. J. (1997).
Atoms for peace and nuclear hegemony: The rhetorical structure of a Cold War campaign. Armed Forces and Society, 23(1), 571–593.[Crossref], [Google Scholar]).
Washington’s three East Asian allies, all of which suffered from a lack of energy resources, made nuclear power a major state-sponsored industry and relied on it for their industrialisation and economic development. The emergence of strong coalitions in each of these countries – consisting of conservative or authoritarian politicians, state-controlled or private electricity companies, and government bureaucrats – provided sustained support for the growth of nuclear power during the Cold War. When energy security was seriously challenged by the oil shock of the 1970s, nuclear power became the most viable source of electricity. Whereas fears of nuclear proliferation and safety concerns encouraged Western countries to retreat from nuclear power in the 1980s, reliance on nuclear power in these East Asian countries continued to grow. Not only did they become an attractive market for US vendors, but they also succeeded in developing independent nuclear power technology. In particular, Japan successfully developed its own nuclear fuel cycle technology, including enrichment and reprocessing (Kido, 1998 Kido, A. (1998). Trends of nuclear power development in Asia. Energy Policy, 26(7), 577–582.[Crossref], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]).
Prior to the Fukushima nuclear incident, one-third of all electricity in Japan, Korea and Taiwan came from nuclear power. As of August 2016, there were 43 reactors capable of operation in Japan, six in Taiwan, and 25 in Korea. Japan has only two reactors currently in operation, but Tokyo is trying to increase that number. Nuclear power still accounts for 18.9 per cent of electricity generation in Taiwan and 31.7 per cent in Korea (World Nuclear Association, 2015 World Nuclear Association. (2015). Nuclear share figures. Retrieved from http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/facts-and-figures/nuclear-generation-by-country.aspx %5BGoogle Scholar]; World Nuclear Association, 2016 World Nuclear Association. (2016). World nuclear power reactors and uranium requirements. Retrieved from http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Facts-and-Figures/World-Nuclear-Power-Reactors-and-Uranium-Requirements/ %5BGoogle Scholar]). Japan and Korea are also competitive exporters of nuclear reactors to countries that aspire to have access to nuclear energy.
The Fukushima nuclear incident of 2011 came as a shock to the nuclear power industry. Fukushima has not only escalated calls to “exit-from-nuclear” from civil activists in Japan but has also had repercussions around the world, particularly in Japan’s neighbours Taiwan and Korea. In the wake of the huge public backlash provoked by the incident, the three countries face the conundrum of how to enhance the sustainability of their economies while reducing their reliance on nuclear power. This situation prompts a number of questions. To what extent has the Fukushima incident brought about changes to existing nuclear policies in Japan, Taiwan and Korea? How has rising civil activism been translated into policy change in each of these countries, and what factors have been at work to convert the shock of Fukushima into a shift in energy policy? In addressing these questions, this article closely compares contentions involving different interest structures and levels of politicisation in the three cases. The interest structure under examination is the way in which the conflicting interests of supporters of nuclear energy and those opposing it are configured (complex or simple). The “level” of politicisation refers to the level at which the campaigns are fought (national or local).
This article is an exercise in inductive analysis, which seeks to use these cases to identify two factors that result in changes in nuclear power policy. The findings we obtain from an examination of the three cases are that the external shock (i.e. the Fukushima incident) has intensified contention; and that for a significant policy change to occur, the interest structure has to be simple (i.e. state-controlled nuclear power and the absence of new interests such as nuclear exports), and civil activism has to be able to cross partisan lines and raise contention to a nationally prioritised level.
This article consists of three parts. In the first part, we conceptualise the two factors that decided the policy direction in the three cases: interest structure and level of politicisation. In the second part, we outline the development of nuclear power and examine the development of contention between civil activists and nuclear power supporters in the three cases. In the third part, we identify some generalisations concerning changes in nuclear power policy.
Two Factors: Interest Structure and Politicisation
Despite common energy security needs and US support for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, nuclear power policies and the nuclear industries in the three countries under consideration have followed somewhat different paths of development. As a result, each case has displayed a different type of contention, but in all three cases government decisions and social consent have been equally important for changes in the nuclear power policy (Golay, 2001 Golay, M. W. (2001). On social acceptance of nuclear power. The Center for International Political Economy & the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, Rice University. [Google Scholar]; Parkins & Haluza-DeLay, 2011 Parkins, J. R., & Haluza-DeLay, R. (2011). Social and ethical considerations of nuclear power development. Staff Paper #11-01, Department of Rural Economy, University of Alberta. [Google Scholar]). Changes in outcomes ranged from a minor adjustment of existing policy, through a significant change, to abandoning the use of nuclear power entirely. With this diversity of outcomes in mind, it is useful to investigate how the relevant actors – the government, pro-nuclear politicians (or political parties), electricity companies, and civil activists – have contended and/or coalesced with one another.
It is noted in the literature that the Fukushima incident brought about a big change in the public perception of nuclear power all around the world (Kim, Kim, & Kim, 2013 Kim, Y., Kim, M., & Kim, W. (2013). Effect of the Fukushima nuclear disaster on global public acceptance. Energy Policy, 61, 822–828.[Crossref], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]). This change in public perception has led to construction delays and cost overruns that have interrupted the principal nuclear states’ attempts to lead a nuclear revival (Szarka, 2013 Szarka, J. (2013). From exception to norm – and back again? France, the nuclear revival, and the post-Fukushima landscape. Environmental Politics, 22(4), 646–663.[Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]). Nevertheless, as it has become clear that the perceptual change by itself is not bringing about an immediate change in policy, analysts have also delved into the sources of policy continuity or partial change, including the impact of short-term interests (Nohrstedt, 2005 Nohrstedt, D. (2005). External shocks and policy change: Three Mile Island and Swedish nuclear energy policy. Journal of European Public Policy, 12(6), 1041–1059.[Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]), the strength of links between governments and the nuclear industry (Fam et al., 2014 Fam, S. D., Xiong, J., Xiong, G., Yong, D. L., & Ng, D. (2014). Post-Fukushima Japan: The continuing nuclear controversy. Energy Policy, 68, 199–205.[Crossref], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]), the way perceived benefits and risks affect public opinion (Park & Ohm, 2014 Park, E., & Ohm, J. Y. (2014). Factors influencing the public intention to use renewable energy technologies in South Korea: Effects of the Fukushima nuclear accident. Energy Policy, 65, 198–211.[Crossref], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]), and the links between the social movements and party politics (Ho, 2014 Ho, M.-S. (2014). The Fukushima effect: Explaining the resurgence of the anti-nuclear movement in Taiwan. Environmental Politics, 23(6), 965–983.[Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]). These individual analyses have their merits, but they have not systematically addressed the question of what mediates the conversion of an external shock into a policy change (or what impedes such a conversion). The issues we should examine are (1) the structure that determines the relationship between those who are deeply involved in the contention at a critical moment, particularly the relationship between supporters and challengers of nuclear power, and (2) the process by which the issue of nuclear power is politicised and those in power are forced to adopt (or resist) a new policy. In this article, we focus on these two factors: the interest structure (as structure) and politicisation (as process).
The first of the two factors, interest structure, may be defined as the way in which the competing interests of supporters and challengers are configured. The actors who support nuclear power and related industries differ from case to case, and the interest structure differs accordingly; depending on how the relationship between actors is formed, the interest structure takes on its own unique form, either complex or simple. This definition helps to identify the mode of contention between supporters and challengers. If the interest structure is complex, it is difficult for civil activists to fight against the supporters of nuclear power because a complex interest structure diversifies the battlefield and thus diffuses the activists’ ability to fight the supporters.
The degree of complexity of the interest structure is determined by two elements: type of ownership and whether new interests have been created. Specifically, ownership – whether nuclear power is state-owned or privatised – determines the degree of complexity. The form of ownership arises at an early stage in the introduction or development of the industry. Nuclear power that is owned by the state is mostly controlled by the state and thus has a less complex interest structure than privatised nuclear power. If nuclear power is state-owned and controlled, when there is serious contention over the issue, the fate of nuclear power will depend on government decisions. In contrast, if the industry is privatised and thus managed by electricity companies, the interest structure will be highly complex. Privatised ownership contributes to the creation of an “iron triangle” consisting of profit-seeking electricity companies, government bureaucrats who sustain nuclear power, and politicians who protect the interests of nuclear power (Vivoda, 2014 Vivoda, V. (2014). Energy security in Japan: Challenges after Fukushima. Surrey: Ashgate. [Google Scholar]; Iguchi & Koga, 2015 Iguchi, M., & Koga, M. (2015). Energy governance in Japan. In S. Mukherjee & D. Chakraborty (Eds.), Environmental challenges and governance: Diverse perspectives from Asia (pp. 219–234). Oxon & London: Routledge. [Google Scholar]). The iron triangle is complicated by the differing motivations of the actors, but it is collective and cooperative in the way that it promotes the interests of the nuclear industry.
Businesses involved in nuclear power try to create new interests by, for example, exporting nuclear plants, fuel and related technology. These new interests mean that nuclear vendors become a new promoter of nuclear power, thus strengthening existing supporters. This allows the nuclear industry to expand and create links with other industries, and in these circumstances, the relevant government agencies are likely to continue to support nuclear power and the advancement of related technology.
Hence, both private ownership of the nuclear power companies and export opportunities in the nuclear industry make nuclear power complex. They make any policy change exceedingly difficult, and any change that does take place is likely to be incremental and marginal in scope. If the interest structure is complex and as a consequence contention is diversified, civil activists must fight on many different fronts. If nuclear power produces new interests – that is, exports – supporters will benefit from uniting to continue to support the existing nuclear power policy, and thus civil activists will grow weary. Conversely, if the interest structure is simple, the activists will fight against a simple target – that is, a pro-nuclear government and a state-owned electricity company working as one body. If the target is solid, the fight may be tough. But if the target is in disarray, any policy change is likely to be drastic and far-reaching.
The second factor, the level of politicisation, addresses the level at which the contention between supporters and civil activism takes place: the national level or the local level. An issue that is politicised at the national level is more controversial than one at the local level, and it attracts broader public attention and triggers a tug of war between the pro- and anti-nuclear camps. The key point of contention is whether the existing nuclear power policy should be maintained or changed. In contrast, any contention that is limited to the local level tends to be issue-specific, involving particular questions such as whether a nuclear power plant or nuclear waste storage facility should be sited in a particular location. Contention normally remains with a locally specific issue, but it may often be elevated to the national agenda. Whether or not activists can seize and act upon such opportunities would decide the fate of the contention. At this stage of being a national agenda, the contention may become entangled in electoral politics, and the form of the alliance between civil activists and political parties becomes a critical factor in policy change.
Once the contention is escalated to and politicised at the national level, it normally securitises the issue of nuclear power in both the administration and the legislature. “Securitisation” means that administrative and legislative actors take up the issue as an existential problem in a given society. The notion of securitisation, which has been used in the study of international relations (Buzan, Wæver, & de Wilde, 1998 Buzan, B., Wæver, O., & de Wilde, J. (1998). Security: A new framework for analysis. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers. [Google Scholar]; Gerard, 2014 Gerard, A. (2014). The securitization of migration and refugee women. New York: Routledge. [Google Scholar]; Naujoks, 2015 Naujoks, D. (2015). The securitization of dual citizenship: National security concerns and the making of the overseas citizenship of India. Diaspora Studies, 8(1), 18–36.[Taylor & Francis Online], [Google Scholar]), is applicable to the persistent threat caused by both hazardous radiation and the difficulties of relocation, as exemplified by the Fukushima incident. Despite its invisibility, this threat affects people both physically and psychologically. Politicisation of nuclear power at the national level may also be described as securitisation. This means that nuclear power is not just a controversial issue but becomes a nationally significant one. For example, as Prime Minister Naoto Kan said with respect to the Fukushima incident, it would have brought about “a collapse of the nation’s ability to function” if it had been necessary to evacuate the residents of Tokyo (New York Times, 28 May 2015).
In identifying changes to nuclear policy, it is necessary to trace and compare the trajectories of the contention between supporters and challengers of nuclear power – and the combined effects of interest structure and politicisation – after the critical shock. Although this article is an inductive analysis, we attempt, in Figure 1, to summarise the trajectories of the contention in the three cases.
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The three cases have undergone changes to varying degrees and in different directions. The Japanese case underwent a striking change – that is, the elevation of contention from local to national level – but it shows the limitations of policy change when dealing with complex interests. As demonstrated by the gradual resumption of operation of the reactors that have undergone safety checks, any drastic policy change, such as the mothballing of entire reactors or exit-from-nuclear, is unlikely to happen in the Japanese case. The Taiwanese case shows a more intense political struggle which was undertaken at the national level and resulted in the highest degree of policy change among the three countries: the freezing of the recently constructed fourth power plant. Furthermore, following the victory of Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the 2016 presidential election, the possibility of decommissioning the existing nuclear plants in the future has become even more likely (Focus Taiwan, 11 March 2016). The Korean case shows the least likelihood of dramatic policy change. Not only does civil activism mostly remain local and issue-specific and seemingly incapable of gearing itself up at the national level, but the industry has created new interest opportunities by exporting four nuclear reactors to the United Arab Emirates. The current progressive administration, which launched in May 2017, has pursued transformation in the energy mix, but has not officially declared that it will cease the export of nuclear plants.
Japan: Elevation of Politicisation but Increasingly Complex Interest Structure
Before Fukushima, nuclear power in Japan was characterised by a complex interest structure and relatively localised civil activism. From the inception of the atomic energy development plan in 1955, nuclear power had diverse promoters with a focused and common goal of expansion and technological advancement, a situation that for a long time disadvantaged anti-nuclear civil activism. The government offered business opportunities in nuclear power to the nine electricity companies, including Tokyo Electric Power Company and Kansai Electric Power Company. The main government organisations – the Japan Science and Technology Agency and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), and its successor the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) – played decision-making and supervisory roles. In addition, the long years of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) rule allowed conservative pro-nuclear politicians to exercise powerful influence over local decisions concerning the location of nuclear power plants.
The convergence of interests between the government, electricity companies and politicians, even if they were driven by different motives, made nuclear power a state-sponsored industry (Kim, 2013 Kim, S. C. (2013). Critical juncture and nuclear-power dependence in Japan: A historical institutionalist analysis. Asian Journal of Peacebuilding, 1, 87–108. [Google Scholar]). The government was deeply involved in the expansion of the nuclear industry, and politicians in both Tokyo and the localities were closely engaged in the siting of nuclear power plants. The nine private electricity companies were beneficiaries of the state-sponsored nuclear industry. Just as in other industrial sectors, there emerged a so-called iron triangle made up of politicians, bureaucrats, and the electricity companies (Vivoda, 2014 Vivoda, V. (2014). Energy security in Japan: Challenges after Fukushima. Surrey: Ashgate. [Google Scholar], p. 142; Iguchi & Koga, 2015 Iguchi, M., & Koga, M. (2015). Energy governance in Japan. In S. Mukherjee & D. Chakraborty (Eds.), Environmental challenges and governance: Diverse perspectives from Asia (pp. 219–234). Oxon & London: Routledge. [Google Scholar], p. 227).
Civil activists were disadvantaged by the complex interest structure: diversity of supporters and state sponsorship. Most of their movements were both locally confined and issue specific. Against this backdrop, pro-nuclear supporters were able to achieve the relatively smooth expansion of nuclear-related industries. Furthermore, they succeeded in coopting cash-strapped local governments and residents. The prime movers of the cooptation were electricity companies and conservative LDP politicians, with both groups approaching council members and opinion leaders in the targeted municipalities. The central government also carried out public relations campaigns: placating local opposition through the legislation of subsidies that expedited the construction of new plants and related facilities. The subsidies were basically government funds, although the electricity companies contributed a significant portion of them through their taxes (Nanao, 2011 Nanao, K. (2011). Genbatsu kanryo [Nuclear power bureaucrats]. Tokyo: Soshisha. [Google Scholar], pp. 146–147; Kaneko, 2012 Kaneko, M. (2012). Ishitsuna kukan no keizaigaku: Richi jichitai kara mita genpatsu mondai [Heterogeneous space economics: The problem of nuclear power plants viewed from the hosting local governments]. Sekai, 8, 136–143. [Google Scholar], pp. 136–143). On top of this cooptation, the oil crisis – and the consequent elevation of energy security to a matter of national survival – contributed to sustaining the nuclear industry throughout the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s.
The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 increased public suspicion about the safety of nuclear power, and protests by activists against the construction of nuclear power plants ensued. One notable consequence of this was an increase in the cost of constructing new nuclear power plants and delays in their construction. Civil activists, however, lacked nationwide collaborative networks and thus found it difficult to gain widespread public support (Kim, 2013 Kim, S. C. (2013). Critical juncture and nuclear-power dependence in Japan: A historical institutionalist analysis. Asian Journal of Peacebuilding, 1, 87–108. [Google Scholar], p. 97). The supporters of nuclear power regarded civil activists’ protests as a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) phenomenon rather than as a movement aimed at achieving a policy change (Lesbirel, 1998 Lesbirel, H. S. (1998). NIMBY politics in Japan: Energy siting and the management of environmental conflict. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. [Google Scholar]). It was not until the second half of the 1990s that several accidents in nuclear-related factories began to draw public attention to the safety of nuclear power: a liquid sodium leak at the Monju fast breeder reactor in December 1995; a fire at the Tokaimura reprocessing plant in March 1997; and an accident at the Japan Nuclear Fuel Conversion Co. in September 1999 (Yoshioka, 2011 Yoshioka, H. (2011). Genshiryoku no shakaishi [Social history of nuclear power]. Tokyo: Asahi Shinbun Shuppan. [Google Scholar], pp. 245–362).
To be sure, the Fukushima incident on 11 March 2011 was a critical shock. The incident triggered widespread calls for exit-from-nuclear from activists and the politicisation of the nuclear power issue at the national level. The composition of the participants in civil activism was different from what it had been in the past. Rallies demanding exit-from-nuclear were attended not only by the usual activists but also by housewives, intellectuals, students and middle-class workers. They were joined by anti-nuclear weapons activists who had been mostly silent on the nuclear power issue for decades. This represented a new convergence of Japanese civil activists.
As civil activism has gained momentum, the government’s policy and political discourse have changed to some extent, and a new business interest in alternative energy sources has emerged. First, from September 2013 to August 2015, the government, under public pressure, postponed the resumption of operations of the nuclear power plants that had been shut down for safety checks. Second, keenly aware of the significance of the nuclear safety issue, the government restructured the organisations in charge of safety, establishing a new body, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), in June 2012. The NRA is an independent organisation, in contrast to the previous nuclear safety watchdog that was part of METI (Ueta, 2014 Ueta, K. (2014). Nihon no enerugi seisaku wa kawattaka [How energy policy is changed in Japan after Fukushima]. Seisaku Kagaku, 21(3), 45–57. [Google Scholar], pp. 45–57). Third, METI led changes in the power system from early 2013 that focused on the liberalisation of the retail market for electricity, although each electricity company still retains its monopoly status (METI, 2013 METI. (2013, February). Denryoku shistemu keikaku senmon iinkai hokokusho [The Report of the Committee on Electricity System Reform]. Retrieved from http://www.meti.go.jp/committee/sougouenergy/sougou/denryoku_system_kaikaku/pdf/report_002_01.pdf %5BGoogle Scholar]; Asahi Shinbun, 11 August 2013). Fourth, electoral candidates from both the ruling LDP and the opposition parties have felt unable to openly support the government’s policy of dependence on nuclear power. For instance, during the election for the Tokyo governor, the LDP-supported candidate, Masuzoe Yoichi, expressed an interest in renewable energy sources, although his commitment remained mostly within the scope of the LDP’s pro-nuclear policy (Mainichi Shinbun, 12 February 2014). Furthermore, in July 2014, Mikazuki Taizo, a Democratic Party candidate who ran an anti-nuclear campaign, was elected governor of Shiga prefecture, which is adjacent to Fukui prefecture, the location of a number of nuclear plants (Japan Times, 15 July 2014). Fifth, some businesses, particularly Softbank under its chairman Son Masayoshi, have begun investing in alternative energy sources, particularly solar power; Son seems keen to exploit the potential synergy effect between information technology and the transmission of smart grid power (Japan Times, 19 April 2012).
Despite the above-mentioned changes on many fronts, the change in public attitude and strengthened civil activism have not been translated into votes for anti-nuclear candidates in most national and local elections. The pro-nuclear LDP was returned to power thanks to a landslide victory in the Lower House election in December 2012. The LDP-led government, having renewed its coalition with the electricity companies, is trying to bring those reactors that have passed safety checks back into operation. As of August 2016, two reactors were operating (Japan Nuclear Safety Institute, 2016 Japan Nuclear Safety Institute. (2016). Licensing status of the Japanese nuclear facilities. Retrieved from http://www.genanshin.jp/english/index.html %5BGoogle Scholar]). In accordance with this line, a report issued by METI on long-term energy policy states that Japan will bring its nuclear power capacity back up to 20–22 per cent of its total electricity output by 2030 (METI, 2015 METI. (2015, July). Long-term energy supply and demand outlook. [Google Scholar], p. 7).
By redoubling its efforts to promote the export of nuclear plants, the Abe cabinet is creating new interests for the nuclear industry, thus increasing the complexity of the interest structure and cancelling out the effects of mushrooming civil activism. Taking advantage of the 2007 US–India Civil Nuclear Agreement (India Review, 1 November 2008, pp. 2–6), Japan had already begun negotiations with India on nuclear energy cooperation in 2010. Yet as soon as it launched, the Abe cabinet newly expanded nuclear cooperation with countries in Southeast Asia (e.g. Vietnam and Indonesia), the Middle East (e.g. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), and Eastern Europe (e.g. the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland) that aspired to possess nuclear power generation capability (Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2014 Center for Strategic and International Studies. (2014, 20 November). Japanese nuclear policy background paper. [Google Scholar]).
At the same time, Japanese nuclear businesses such as Toshiba, Hitachi and Mitsubishi have sought export markets for their products, and their efforts have begun to bear fruit. In one example, a Japanese–French consortium – consisting of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and AREVA – struck a deal in 2013 to build a nuclear power plant in Turkey. The Japanese government regards the US$22 billion deal as a bridgehead to the nuclear market in the Middle East (BBC News, 3 May 2013). In 2014, Japanese vendors contracted with Lithuania and Bulgaria to build nuclear power plants (Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2014 Center for Strategic and International Studies. (2014, 20 November). Japanese nuclear policy background paper. [Google Scholar], p. 26). It is estimated that any nuclear export contract with India will be worth US$69 billion or more to Japanese vendors (Japan Times, 24 January 2014; Hindustan Times, 13 December 2015). To be sure, the exports would make a major policy shift even more costly. The new export opportunities make the interest structure more complex than it was before the Fukushima incident, a situation that is disadvantageous to those calling for exit-from-nuclear. With the new interests, promoters remain united.
In sum, in the post-Fukushima era, the surge in civil activism succeeded in elevating the level of politicisation of the issue, thus contributing to changes in national policy. In response to the rising tide of anti-nuclear activism, the government strengthened safety regulations and suspended the operation of nuclear plants (except for two reactors, as of August 2016). But civil activism has not been able to break up the coalition between the LDP-led government, conservative politicians and electricity companies since Fukushima. Furthermore, the export of nuclear plants has created new interest opportunities for nuclear vendors, thus contributing to the fundamental maintenance of the nuclear power policy. The Japanese government is unlikely to change its policy drastically, for example by scrapping nuclear power plants completely. Indeed, the government is trying to bring the reactors back into operation as it completes safety checks.
Taiwan: Escalation of Politicisation in a Simple Interest Structure
The Taiwanese case represents a simple interest structure and a high level of politicisation. The simple interest structure, based on state sponsorship, has remained constant since the establishment of Taiwan’s nuclear industry in the 1950s. The issue of nuclear power had already been politicised to a certain extent before Fukushima, and afterwards, in early 2014, fierce contention within and outside the legislature induced the government to decide not to bring the recently completed fourth power plant into operation. It is the existence of politicisation at the national level combined with a simple interest structure that has led to a policy shift away from reliance on nuclear power.
The development of nuclear power in Taiwan has been characterised by a convergence of interests between supporters, including the government, conservative politicians and the state-owned electricity company. The main electricity company, Taiwan Power Company (TaiPower), constructed and operates the nuclear power plants, and has remained state owned. Decades of rule by the conservative Kuomintang (KMT) ensured the establishment and continuation of a pro-nuclear policy direction (Hsu, 1995 Hsu, G. J. Y. (1995). The evolution of Taiwan’s energy policy and energy industry. Journal of Industry Studies, 2(1), 95–109.[Taylor & Francis Online], [Google Scholar]; Hsiao, 1999 Hsiao, H.-H. M. (1999). Environmental movements in Taiwan. In Y.-S. F. Lee & A. Y. So (Eds.), Asia’s environmental movements: Comparative perspectives (pp. 31–54). Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe. [Google Scholar]) and consolidated a network of interests throughout the nuclear industry. Professionals working in or advising the Ministry of Economic Affairs, which regulates the industry, and the Atomic Energy Council under the Executive Yuan, which is in charge of safety inspections, are mostly graduates of the same university department, which also aided the convergence of interests. The Institute of Nuclear Engineering and Science at National Tsinghua University is Taiwan’s only higher education department training nuclear technology specialists.
Taiwan initially wanted to develop nuclear power for military purposes as well, prompted by China’s first nuclear test in 1964 (Central Intelligence Agency, 1972 Central Intelligence Agency. (1972, 1 November). Taipei’s capabilities and intentions regarding nuclear weapons development (Special National Intelligence Estimate). [Google Scholar]). This ambition was soon frustrated by intervention from the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Since then, Taiwan’s pursuit of nuclear technology has been limited to non-military uses (Albright & Gay, 1998 Albright, D., & Gay, C. (1998). Taiwan: Nuclear nightmare averted. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 54(1), 54–60.[Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]). Furthermore, in contrast to Japan and Korea, Taiwan has recently made it clear that it has no interest in developing an indigenous uranium enrichment capability (Grossman, 2012 Grossman, E. M. (2012, 19 July). Taiwan ready to forgo nuclear fuel-making in US trade pact renewal. National Journal. Retrieved from http://www.nationaljournal.com/nationalsecurity/taiwan-ready-to-forgo-nuclear-fuel-making-in-u-s-trade-pact-renewal-20120719 %5BGoogle Scholar]). This implies that Taiwan has no intention of developing the nuclear fuel cycle; its only aim is to maintain the existing interest structure of the pro-nuclear camp. This distinguishes the development of the nuclear industry in Taiwan from that in Japan and Korea. Taiwan has a simpler interest structure than the two other countries, because it has a state-controlled electricity company and is not an exporter of nuclear technology.
Anti-nuclear activism in Taiwan has developed while forging close partisan linkages during the struggle for democratisation. By joining forces with the then opposition party, the DPP, the activists helped to politicise the nuclear power issue more than any other environmental issue. On the flip side, civil activists have been unable to make progress when they have failed to obtain DPP backing for their moves (Ho, 2003 Ho, M.-S. (2003). The politics of anti-nuclear protest in Taiwan: A case of party-dependent movement (1980–2000). Modern Asian Studies, 37(3), 683–708.[Crossref], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]). Anti-nuclear activism experienced a major setback when the DPP came to power in 2000 and failed to deliver on its campaign promise to halt construction of the fourth nuclear power plant. This was because, despite the election of a DPP president, the party held less than one third of the seats in the legislature and therefore could not force through a bill to halt construction of the plant (Wu, 2002 Wu, Y.-S. (2002). Taiwan in 2001: Stalemated on all fronts. Asian Survey, 42(1), 29–38.[Crossref], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]). Since then, activists have become increasingly disillusioned with party politics (Shih, 2012 Shih, F.-L. (2012). Generating power in Taiwan: Nuclear, political and religious power. Culture and Religion, 13(3), 295–313.[Taylor & Francis Online], [Google Scholar]), and the anti-nuclear issue has not proved particularly attractive to voters, as seen in the 2012 presidential election (interview with activist, Taipei, 15 July 2013). Thus, although at one time it was near the top of the national political agenda, the anti-nuclear cause did not have a significant impact on politics for several decades prior to the Fukushima incident.
The Fukushima incident reignited the national-level contention over the continued use of nuclear power in Taiwan. There was fierce public criticism of the government’s pro-nuclear stance, followed by demands for a radical change in the existing policy. Activists and their supporters have called for a “nuclear-free Taiwan” and demanded that the government scrap the almost-completed fourth nuclear power plant and decommission the other three plants when they reach the end of their scheduled terms (Pingguo Ribao, 10 March 2013). Anti-nuclear activism has attracted more attention across the country than ever before, and its support base has become broader, attracting participation from housewives, celebrities and successful entrepreneurs. Even some KMT politicians, presumably with one eye on the ballot box, have been prompted to show support for anti-nuclear activism (Taipei Times, 27 March 2013). This split in the KMT has been advantageous to the anti-nuclear cause. Meanwhile, experience has taught the activists not to get too close to the DPP, as that would likely discourage non-DPP supporters. Thus, activists have been careful in managing their relations with political parties lest parties and politicians attempt to jump on the anti-nuclear bandwagon (Ho, 2014 Ho, M.-S. (2014). The Fukushima effect: Explaining the resurgence of the anti-nuclear movement in Taiwan. Environmental Politics, 23(6), 965–983.[Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]).
As the issue of the continued use of nuclear power became more controversial, the contention moved into the legislature. In early 2013, Premier Jiang Yi-huah proposed a national referendum to decide whether to scrap the fourth nuclear plant. The legislature soon divided into pro- and anti-nuclear camps, and there were skirmishes over when and how the referendum should be implemented. Outside the legislature, the KMT and the relevant government organisations, including the Ministry of Economic Affairs, launched campaigns to persuade people of the economic necessity of the power plant. The DPP offered indirect support to the anti-nuclear activists, and its members delivered speeches at their rallies (interview with activist, Taipei, 30 June 2013). Fierce confrontation continued in the legislature for several months, with no prospect of compromise. When Lee Ching-hua, the KMT legislator who had initiated the referendum proposal, suddenly declared that he would withdraw it, the result was a stalemate (Taiwan News, 10 September 2013).
The deadlock ended when 72-year-old Lin Yi-Hsing, a very important symbol of democratisation and anti-nuclear activism in Taiwan, went on a hunger strike. Lin’s decision to risk his life for the anti-nuclear cause attracted the attention of the public and politicians alike. It soon provoked demonstrations and clashes between anti-nuclear protesters and the police (Taipei Times, 24 April 2014). The escalation of the contention increased the pressure on the Ma Ying-jeou administration. The administration wanted to avoid stirring up more trouble, given that the country had just experienced the Sunflower movement, a civil disobedience campaign on an unprecedented scale. At this time, the government was facing challenges not just from anti-nuclear activists but from society as a whole. Now that escalating protests had crossed partisan lines, the KMT decided that it would freeze the construction of the fourth nuclear power plant as long as there was no shortage of electricity (Pingguo Ribao, 8 September 2014). Even though debate continued over whether the plant should ultimately be scrapped, the move was evidence of meaningful changes in the stance of the Ma administration, as previously the administration had pushed for the fourth power plant to be completed. Additionally, a plan to make the Atomic Energy Council an independent body in charge of nuclear safety has been discussed (Focus Taiwan, 3 January 2014).
The KMT suffered a crushing defeat in the general and presidential elections in early 2016, and in May 2016 the DPP became the ruling party. This change in the political landscape suggests that Taiwan may become even less reliant on nuclear power. Tsai Ing-wen, the new president, has previously proposed a “nuclear free Taiwan”, which would involve decommissioning all nuclear power plants by 2025, exploring alternative energy sources, and pursuing the liberalisation of the electricity industry. It is expected that Tsai will adopt a multi-pronged approach to reducing reliance on nuclear energy, although she will be careful not to stir up massive confusion in the political arena similar to the events of 2000 (Global Issues, 13 January 2016).
The shock of Fukushima seems to have brought about meaningful change in Taiwan. A high level of politicisation and a simple interest structure have been crucial in bringing about such an outcome. Compared to the other two cases, Taiwan has retained an integrated, state-controlled electricity company and has not sought additional sources of income for the nuclear industry. At the same time, anti-nuclear activism has broadened its support base and is pressing forward on two fronts, thus creating a society-wide struggle. By triggering heated debates that cross partisan lines, nuclear power has become a nationally salient political issue. Of the three countries under discussion here, Taiwan is the one that is most likely to undergo drastic and far-reaching change. A sudden national blackout in mid-August 2017 has called into question the feasibility of nuclear phase-out in Taiwan (South China Morning Post, 20 August 2017), but it is unlikely that the hard-won social consensus on nuclear phase-out will easily dissipate.
Korea: Evolving Issue in a Relatively Simple Interest Structure
In Korea, as in Taiwan, the nuclear industry developed within a simple interest structure based on a state-controlled electricity company. The existence of strong links between conservative politicians, bureaucrats and the electricity company emasculated civil activism for several decades. Since Fukushima, Korean civil activism has ridden a tide of rising public awareness of nuclear safety and an increasing unwillingness to accept the construction of nuclear plants and waste storage facilities on their doorstep. Nevertheless, a policy shift is still a long way off: nuclear power remains a local issue, and the creation of new interest opportunities has increased the complexity of the interest structure. Both the government’s “low carbon, green growth” policy introduced in 2008 and its nuclear exports to the United Arab Emirates in 2009 have provided the supporters of nuclear power with new interest opportunities. Consequently the Fukushima effect has remained limited in Korea.
In Korea, both pre- and post-Fukushima, the supporters of nuclear power – especially the government and the government-controlled electricity corporation – have acted almost as a single body, and this simple interest structure has been consolidated over several decades. Under the 1956 Korea–US atomic energy cooperation agreement, Korea started to receive nuclear technology from the United States. Under the junta led by General Park Chung-hee, three private power companies were merged to form the Korean Electric Power Company (KEPCO), the sole state-owned electricity company. Park’s developmental zeal encouraged the growth of the electric power industry in the 1960s, but when, in the mid-1970s, Park tried to introduce fuel cycle technology and related facilities from Canada and France for the purpose of nuclear weapons development, the United States put pressure on Korea to abandon these plans (USNSC, 1975 USNSC. (1975, 28 February). US National Security Council Memorandum, Development of US Policy toward South Korean Development of Nuclear Weapons. History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library. Retrieved from http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/114627 %5BGoogle Scholar]).
The Korean nuclear power community, rather than being paralysed by the Chernobyl accident in 1986, took advantage of the downturn in its US counterpart, which was desperately seeking a way out of the business slump (Price, 1990 Price, T. (1990). Political electricity: What future for nuclear energy? Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Google Scholar]). KEPCO obtained technology transfers under favourable conditions when it chose a US vendor, Combustion Engineering (CE), to construct its nuclear power plants, Yeongguang 3 and Yeongguang 4 (Lee, 2009 Lee, J.-H. (2009). Hangukui haekjugwon [Korea’s nuclear sovereignty]. Seoul: Gulmadang. [Google Scholar], p. 222). The KEPCO–CE collaboration laid the foundation for the development of indigenous reactor design capability in Korea. During the 1990s and 2000s, Korea succeeded in designing its own standard reactor model APR-1400 (KEPCO, 2014 KEPCO. (2014). Hanguk jollyok sasipnyonsa [The history of forty years of the Korea Electrical Company]. Retrieved from http://www.kepco.co.kr/kepco_plaza/history/index_b.html %5BGoogle Scholar]). Gaining confidence in indigenous technology and reducing its reliance on American knowhow, Korea sought to export its own standard model reactors, signing a contract with the United Arab Emirates in 2009 (Financial Times, 28 December 2009). Korea also continued its efforts, in collaboration with the United States, to develop pyroprocessing, a new technology designed to reduce nuclear waste (Sheen, 2011 Sheen, S. (2011). Nuclear sovereignty versus nuclear security: Renewing the ROK–US Atomic Energy Agreement. Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, 23(2), 273–288.[Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]; Korea Times, 29 April 2013).
Anti-nuclear activism was relatively slow to develop in Korea. The democratisation of the late 1980s fostered environmental activism, including a certain amount of anti-nuclear activism. But the activists were not able to get the nuclear issue onto the national agenda (Lee, 1999 Lee, S.-H. (1999). Environmental movements in South Korea. In Y.-S. F. Lee & A. Y. So (Eds.), Asia’s environmental movements: Comparative perspectives (pp. 90–119). Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe. [Google Scholar], pp. 92–103). Activists have been able to achieve a certain amount of autonomy in the political realm, but the downside has been that neither of the competing major political parties has taken up the issue of nuclear power in a serious way.
This weak civil activism was the target of cooptation by the pro-nuclear government and KEPCO. Between 1989 and 2005, civil activists – with the support of environmental organisations – seemed to have achieved success in preventing the government from locating nuclear waste storage facilities in economically disadvantaged or remote areas, such as Yeongdeok, Anmyeon-do, Guleop-do and Buan (Kim, 2005 Kim, C.-K. (2005). Banhaek undonggwa jiyokjumin jongchi [Anti-nuclear movement and local politics]. Hanguk sahoe, 6(2), 41–69. [Google Scholar]). In the 2003 Buan case in particular, resistance by civil activists and local residents ended in violence, and the local mayor, Kim Jong-gyu, was injured. The pro-nuclear government and KEPCO’s cooptation strategy overturned that trend in 2005 when they offered US$250 million to any city prepared to host a storage facility for low- and medium-level radioactive waste. Four cities came forward, attracted by the prospect of funds to boost their stagnating economies (Lee, 2009 Lee, J.-H. (2009). Hangukui haekjugwon [Korea’s nuclear sovereignty]. Seoul: Gulmadang. [Google Scholar]). Despite strong protests by civil activists, Kyeongju emerged as the winner after 89.5 per cent of its voters came out in support of the project in a local referendum. The issue of where to locate radioactive waste storage facilities, by its very nature, was unable to attract national attention or prompt joint resistance. The central government collaborated with cash-strapped local governments in order to divide the local population (Yun, 2006 Yun, S.-J. (2006). 2005nyon jung-jeojuwi bangsasong pegimul chobunsiseol chujin gwajonggwa banhaekundong [The process of siting medium- and high-level radioactive waste storage and the anti-nuclear movement, 2005]. Siminsahoewa NGO, 4(1), 277–311. [Google Scholar]). Cooptation in the guise of the “democratic process” justified and empowered the government in its plans. It also further incapacitated anti-nuclear activism in Korea. In this context, it is not surprising that the Korean government, particularly the previous Lee administration and the incumbent Park administration, is not committed to reducing reliance on nuclear power (New York Times, 4 August 2013; Hankyoreh, 15 January 2014).
Owing to the critical shock of the Fukushima incident, the government has had to pay more attention to nuclear safety. When Korea hosted the Nuclear Security Summit in March 2012, the then president, Lee Myung-bak, stressed the link between nuclear security and safety. This new concern was timely in view of the ramifications of Fukushima. In the same context, the Lee administration separated the Nuclear Security and Safety Commission from the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology in October 2012, making it an independent body.
Amid heightened concerns about nuclear safety, revelations about a bribery scandal in the nuclear power business in 2013 gave new impetus to anti-nuclear activists, although action was slow to develop and was local in scope. First of all, the country’s four religious groups – Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist and Won Buddhist – adopted an exit-from-nuclear stance, and more than 40 anti-nuclear civic organisations came together in a loose but extended umbrella organisation, Collective Action for a Nuclear-free Society. Second, local politics in a few cities has begun to reflect concerns about the country’s excessive reliance on nuclear power. At the local elections held in June 2014, a candidate who opposed the government’s plan to construct a new power plant was elected in Samcheok, and a politician who opposed extending the life of the oldest plant at Gori was elected in Busan. In a local poll held in Yeongdeok in August 2015, 62 per cent of voters opposed the construction of two new nuclear plants (Dalton & Cha, 2016 Dalton, T., and Cha, M. (2016, 23 February). South Korea’s nuclear energy future. The Diplomat. Retrieved from http://thediplomat.com/2016/02/south-koreas-nuclear-energy-future/ %5BGoogle Scholar]). The city government of Seoul has adopted a policy of gradually reducing energy consumption and facilitating the generation of renewable energy, with the aim of transforming the city from a consumer to a producer of energy. With the support of ardent activists, Mayor Park Won-soon has led the “one fewer nuclear power plant” drive since 2012 (interview with activist, Seoul, 31 July 2014).
As far as the activists are concerned, the contention in general remains local; that is, the most problematic issues are the safety concerns of local residents and their unwillingness to accept nuclear power. The trend towards declining local acceptance, as seen in Samcheok, Yeongdeok and Busan in recent years, certainly raises the cost of construction of both nuclear power plants and nuclear waste dumps, but the candidate sites for nuclear power plants are located far from the capital and other cities that are benefiting from nuclear-powered electricity. Civil activism, despite its gradual expansion due to localised opposition to nuclear facilities, is still weak. Its nationwide network is only loosely integrated, compared to the solid interest structure of the nuclear supporters.
There are two factors that bolster the solidarity of the supporters of nuclear power in Korea. The first is the government’s pursuit since August 2008 of a “low carbon, green growth” policy, in which nuclear power continues to have a significant role. This policy, which was adopted under President Lee, has continued under the present administration. Indeed, the Seventh Basic Plan for Electricity Demand and Supply states that 28.2 per cent of Korea’s total electricity should be generated by nuclear power by 2029 – which is similar to the 2014 level of 30.0 per cent. In order to meet the increasing demand for electricity, the government plans to build two more reactors (Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy, 2015 Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy. (2015). 7cha jeonryeok sugeup gibongyeohweok, 2015–2029 [The Seventh Basic Plan of Electricity Demand and Supply, 2015–2029]. [Google Scholar], p. 4, p. 8).
The second factor that favours the solidarity of the promoters of nuclear power is the rise of new interests, especially the export of nuclear power plants, which is solidifying the policy on nuclear power. With strong government support, in 2009 Korea succeeded in winning a contract with the United Arab Emirates to build four reactors worth US$20.4 billion. This has strengthened the ties between stakeholders (Wall Street Journal, 28 December 2009). As a competitor of Japanese and French manufacturers, the Korean vendor is also seeking new opportunities in other countries in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. It is unlikely that this solid interest structure, which has also become more complex than before, will be shaken to any significant degree in the near future.
With the launch of the new administration in May 2017, and particularly with President Moon Jae-in’s personal preference for the gradual phasing-out of nuclear power, Korea’s policy today is different from the previous administration’s reliance on nuclear power. The Moon administration has tried to ratchet up public support for its policy by facilitating debates in a public-opinion committee with regard to the issue of stopping or continuing the construction of two new nuclear reactors at Sin-gori. Yet the public-opinion committee produced a contradictory result: support for the continuation of the construction of the reactors at Sin-gori and simultaneous support for a gradual reduction of nuclear power domestically (Jang, 2017 Jang, S. Y. (2017, 26 October). South Korea’s nuclear energy debate. The Diplomat. Retrieved from https://thediplomat.com/2017/10/south-koreas-nuclear-energy-debate/ %5BGoogle Scholar]). The Moon administration has committed to implementing the committee’s recommendations, and has reconfirmed its policy priority regarding the gradual phasing-out of nuclear power. What should be noted here is that, unlike its domestic nuclear policy, the administration has not declared its firm intention to reject the possibility of exporting nuclear plants. This inconsistent position has sparked criticism from the opposition party, which has claimed that no country will buy Korean nuclear power plants if the Moon administration is reducing the use of nuclear power domestically. Given this situation, it seems that Korea’s underlying reliance on nuclear power is unlikely to undergo a dramatic change.
Generalisations about the Contention over Nuclear Power and Likely Policy Changes
Any major change to a government’s nuclear power policy is most likely brought about by contention between pro- and anti-nuclear forces. Specifically, change is determined by the combined effect of the interest structure and the level of politicisation. By examining these two factors, we are able to establish some generalisations regarding the conditions under which the challengers (i.e. civil activists) are able to contribute to a significant change in nuclear power policy.
In relation to the interest structure, the analysis in this article leads us to the following generalisation: civil activism is less likely to bring about policy change if it has to compete with diverse supporters of nuclear power than with a monolithic supporter. In a complex environment, activists are besieged by different supporters of nuclear power, including the government, electricity companies and politicians. Activists need to contest the government’s energy policy, demonstrate against the siting of nuclear plants, monitor electricity companies’ safety measures, and keep a vigilant eye on the triangular relationship between supporters. Anti-nuclear activism is, by its very nature, constrained by the supporters of nuclear power who act as veto players against policy change. The way in which the complex nature of the defenders (who in this case are the supporters of nuclear power) diffuses the effect of the challenger’s strategy (the challenger here being civil activist groups) is not unique to the case of nuclear power, but analogous to opposing alliances in international relations (e.g. Christensen, 2011 Christensen, T. J. (2011) Worse than a monolith: Alliance politics and problems of coercive diplomacy in Asia. Princeton: Princeton University Press.[Crossref], [Google Scholar]). The supporters of nuclear power tend to coalesce, even if they have different reasons for supporting nuclear power as an essential energy source; dealing with this complexity exhausts civil activism. Furthermore, the export of nuclear power plants creates additional supporters: reactor vendors, nuclear fuel makers and technologists. Therefore, unless the complex interest structure breaks up, the politicisation of the nuclear power issue at the national level will not by itself bring about any major policy change. The Japanese case demonstrates this very well.
We can also make a generalisation concerning politicisation: if civil activism manages to exert pressure on both the pro- and anti-nuclear political camps, a drastic and far-reaching policy change is likely to occur. Politicisation at the national level is a kind of securitisation of the nuclear power issue. Calls for exit-from-nuclear at a national level involve the dissemination by activists of information regarding the hazardous contamination of water and air, and the effects of radiation on children’s health and the mental health of evacuees, and so on. All these activities are aimed at securitising the issue among both the public and politicians and political parties. In order to be successful, civil activists must act strategically, making sure that the issue is a salient campaign agenda item for both the ruling and opposition parties. Civil activism should not rely on one particular party. Although reliance on one party may allow activists to take advantage of that party’s organisational resources, it can mean that they become the instruments of the party (Ho, 2003 Ho, M.-S. (2003). The politics of anti-nuclear protest in Taiwan: A case of party-dependent movement (1980–2000). Modern Asian Studies, 37(3), 683–708.[Crossref], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]). Alignment with a particular party will lead to a policy shift only if that party wins a presidential election and holds a majority in the legislature. Thus, a more viable strategy for activists is to work on both the ruling and opposition parties, thus turning nuclear power into a nonpartisan, securitised national issue.
The comparisons we have drawn in this article, and generalisations that are based on them, provide us with a balanced understanding of both the structural constraints on actors in the contention over nuclear power and the process in which each actor manoeuvres. This balanced understanding has significant implications for anti-nuclear activists all over the world with regard to their choice of strategy: in order to achieve their aims, they need to politicise and securitise the issue of nuclear power at the national level, while at the same time crossing the partisan line and putting pressure on both pro- and anti-nuclear political parties. The Taiwanese case demonstrates this model. Activists have benefited from the simple interest structure and the resultant single battlefront (i.e. activists vs the government); furthermore, they have enhanced their ability to cross the partisan line to press both the ruling and opposition parties to support exit-from-nuclear. Additionally, the change in the political landscape brought about by the DPP’s victory in the January 2016 presidential election has improved the prospects for further policy change (e.g. the decommissioning of old plants and a halt to the construction of new ones).
The analysis in this article helps us to address the question of why anti-nuclear activism produces different outcomes in different countries. A diversified, complex interest structure produces a threshold, if not a fault-line, that makes significant policy change exceedingly difficult, even when the nuclear power issue is highly politicised. For civil activism, it is not a matter of choosing whether to confront a complex or a simple interest structure, as the interest structure is already in place. The activists’ cause may be helped by a combination of heightened public awareness, collaboration with the political leadership, and the commercial development of alternative energy sources.
Conclusion
The Fukushima incident has certainly energised civil activism in all three countries under consideration in this article, and in all three cases it has led to calls for exit-from-nuclear, to varying degrees. The incident has served to securitise the political discourse regarding nuclear power and has laid the foundation for the adoption of a modified energy policy, but these changes do not mean the end of nuclear power in these three countries: they mean different things in each of the three cases.
This article has demonstrated the combined effect of interest structure and level of politicisation on the scope of policy change. Interest structure is more historically dependent than the level of politicisation. The complexity or simplicity of the interest structure is related to the industrial development pattern at the time of the introduction of nuclear power and the export structure of the key industries, including nuclear power, at the advanced stage of industrial development. In contrast, the level of politicisation is something that civil activism is able to manipulate at the time of a critical shock, such as the Fukushima incident.
By tracing the trajectories of contention over nuclear power policy, this article finds that the scope of policy change is greatest in Taiwan, followed by Japan and then Korea. The Taiwanese case has a simple interest structure, so politicisation at the national level and civil activism’s crossing of the partisan line make significant policy change more likely. Because of the complex interest structure and new interest opportunities stemming from the export of nuclear plants, the Japanese case, despite strengthened nationwide civil activism, is likely to see pro-nuclear forces regain a certain degree of momentum in the long run. We also find that Korea is the least likely of the three to undergo a policy change, although civil activism there is slowly expanding.
We have learned two lessons from the above analysis that may be relevant for anti-nuclear civil activism: first, a complex interest structure presents a more formidable obstacle to civil activists than a simple, monolithic one; second, if civil activism manages to exert pressure on both the pro- and anti-nuclear political camps at a critical moment, a drastic and far-reaching policy change is likely to occur.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
Funding
This work was supported by a National Research Foundation of Korea Grant funded by the Korean Government (NRF-2010-361-A00017) and the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies Research Fund.
Acknowledgments
The authors express their deep gratitude to Nathan Batto, Stephan Haggard, Ming-sho Ho, Nae-Young Lee, Taedong Lee, Tse-Kang Leng, Takemoto Makiko and Hungwen Tseng for their insightful comments and suggestions. The authors also thank the three reviewers for their critical, helpful comments for the improvement of this paper.
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December 19, 2017 Posted by | ASIA | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry urges Taiwan to ease 3/11 food import ban

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TAIPEI – The Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry is urging Taiwan to ease its ban on food imports from five prefectures imposed as a result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In its annual white paper released Friday, the Taipei branch of the business group expressed hope that Taiwan will work to join regional economic cooperation agreements and sign a free trade deal with Japan.
“To create an environment conducive to regional participation in economic liberalization, Taiwan must amend regulations that are applied only here and run counter to international practices,” it said.
The chairman of the JCCI’s Taipei branch, Takeshi Yagi, cited two examples: The high tariffs imposed on Japanese rice wines and the ban on food imports from Fukushima and surrounding areas in place since 2011.
Last November, Taiwan was considering easing the import ban in two stages.
In the first stage, while the ban on imports of all food products from Fukushima Prefecture would remain in place, the ban on certain items from nearby Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures would be lifted. In the second stage, to be implemented possibly six months later, restrictions would be further relaxed.
But that plan faced strong opposition from the opposition Nationalist Party (KMT), which questioned the government’s ability to ensure the safety of the products. And the government backed away from the plan following revelations that banned food products had nevertheless slipped into the country and been sold.
While the JCCI hopes to see the ban lifted fully, Yagi said it would be happy to see it eased in a phased manner.
On regional economic integration, Yagi said the JCCI is not in a position to comment on how Taiwan’s strained relations with China might impact its bid to join regional trading blocs such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
But the JCCI did urge Taiwan to map out more concrete plans concerning its “New Southbound Policy,” which calls for bolstering relations with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Australia, New Zealand and nations in South Asia.
Regarding purely domestic issues, the JCCI urged Taiwan to amend labor laws, cut red tape and ease rules for foreign investors.
The JCCI began releasing an annual white paper on business issues pertaining to Taiwan in 2009. The report assesses Taiwan’s business climate and summarizes recommendations to the Taiwan government on public policies, legislation and measures that impact Japanese companies’ operations in Taiwan.
Despite the absence of official diplomatic ties, which were severed in 1972, the unofficial relationship between Taiwan and Japan has remained robust. Japan is Taiwan’s third-largest trading partner after China including Hong Kong, while Taiwan is Japan’s fourth-largest trading partner.

November 6, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

KMT vows to challenge Japan food imports with referendum

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Taipei, April 6 (CNA) Opposition Kuomintang (KMT) Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said on Thursday he will officially submit a proposal for the holding of a national referendum on food safety if the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration lifts a ban on the import of food products from radiation-affected prefectures in Japan.

The proposal has obtained more than 120,000 signatures, Hau said.

In addition, if the DPP government opens Taiwan’s market to ractopamine-containing pork from the United States, the KMT will mobilize the public to protest at customs offices, he said.

Under the Referendum Act, the authorization of a referendum requires that no less than 0.5 percent of the total electorate at the last presidential election sign a petition.

Because there were 18.78 million eligible voters at the last election on Jan. 16, 2016, Hau’s proposal needs to be supported by at least 93,900 signatures and then approved by the Referendum Review Committee.

Taiwan has banned imports of food products from five prefectures in Japan – Fukushima, Gunma, Chiba, Ibaraki and Tochigi – that were contaminated by radiation following the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011, a catastrophe triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.

Taiwan’s government is now considering lifting the ban on food from all the prefectures except Fukushima, but has run into virulent public opposition.
http://focustaiwan.tw/news/aipl/201704060017.aspx#.WOhNDdKzEuk.facebook

April 8, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | 1 Comment

Taiwanese Say No to Japan Nuke Food Imports

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Thousands protest over ‘nuke food’

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Thousands took to the streets to protest the proposed lifting of a ban on food products from radiation-affected areas of Japan, following an inconclusive public hearing on the matter Sunday morning.

The Kuomintang (KMT)-organized march kicked off with remarks from KMT Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱).

“We will not tolerate our children being endangered by food products contaminated by radiation,” Hung said.

Hung urged the crowd of protestors to convey their dissent to the government as they marched from Aiguo East Road near Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and down Ketagalan Boulevard to the Ministry of Finance at Aiguo West Road.

Representatives from various demographics, including housewives, young parents and expecting parents, spoke out in turn before the march began.

The diversity of backgrounds represented at the march “reflected the 74 percent of all Taiwanese nationals who oppose lifting the ban on food imports from five Japanese regions affected by the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster,” the march’s organizers claimed.

Expecting father Chen Hsiao-wei (陳孝威) expressed concerns that food imports from radiation-affected areas had already made their way into Taiwan.

Chen said he “did not understand any of the figures and numbers” presented by the government’s experts about the imports and only wanted to know why “Taiwanese people should eat these food products when the Koreans, Chinese, and Australians are not eating them.”

In a move that both served as a visual pun and was reminiscent of Latin America’s “pots and pans” protests, “new immigrants” — a term commonly used to refer to immigrants from Southeast Asia — attended the march with small pans and spatulas in hand to object to feeding their children potentially harmful food.

These mothers chose to “bravely speak out and bring their children to the march” to safeguard the welfare of the next generation, a representative of the new immigrant mothers told reporters.

A Failed Public Hearing

Earlier in the day, protestors and KMT legislators attended a public hearing at the Taipei Innovation City Convention Center in New Taipei City’s Xindian District.

The public hearing, which was intended to address the assessment and management of products from the five regions, failed to get past the explanation of the hearing’s rules after repeated outbursts from audience members.

Cabinet Spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) later said that “some people deliberately showed up (to the hearing) to provoke hatred.”

After moderator Chu Tseng-hung (朱增宏) spent most of the morning asking for decorum, legislators and NGO representatives present decided it was best for the public hearing to be downgraded to an informal forum that would hold no legal weight.

KMT Legislator Kao Chin Su-mei (高金素梅) said procedures for the hearing were “unjust” and that incorrect information was being disseminated. “The government is using technical issues to continue to beat around the bush (on this issue),” Kao Chin said during the hearing.

KMT Legislator Wayne Chiang (蔣萬安) said people’s voices were being omitted. At the march in the afternoon, he told the crowds, “The public hearing was not conducted in accordance with the principle of procedural justice.”

Chiang questioned the need for a hearing on the import of food products from radiation-affected areas if the government had reiterated that it would not allow the import of any “nuke foods.”

Around noon it was decided that the hearing would be downgraded to an informal forum, which organizers of the march later called a “victory of the people.”

Hsu Fu (許輔), director of the Cabinet’s food safety office later said that the forum had achieved “real results” and hoped the format could be used in future policy discussions.

President’s Office Responds

The office of President Tsai Ing-wen office later accused the KMT of “twisting” the hearing.

Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang (黃重諺) said a public hearing was one of the best “platforms for policy discussion” and that the KMT had managed to turn the hearing into “a show for their party’s own internal election.”

Huang stressed in his statement that the government had never wanted to open the country’s borders to radiation-contaminated food products. “Regardless of where the food products come from, the government holds the same attitude as every other country, which is that it would not import food contaminated by radiation.”

The presidential office spokesman further stated that the government would base their import policies on international professional standards and scientific evidence with no exception.

Radioactive Salmon in Canada

Earlier this month, a research team from Canada’s University of Victoria reported discovering radioactive salmon in the British Columbia region.

Research team leader Jay Cullen found that a sample of salmon from Okanagan Lake in British Columbia had tested positive for cesium 134, which is deemed “a footprint of Fukushima.”

In the years since the 2011 Fukushima disaster, there have been increasing concerns about radiation-contaminated food products originating from the region and contaminated water supplies from airborne radioactive fallout.

Last year, public outrage erupted after food from the Fukushima disaster site was found on British market shelves with false labels. The scare hit closer to home when Taiwan discovered that more than 100 radioactive food products, originating from Fukushima but falsely packaged as coming from Tokyo, had made it onto shelves in Taiwan.

With the issue of food from nuclear-affected regions under close scrutiny domestically, more and more countries and international media outlets are paying attention to the potential of radiation contamination from Fukushima.

At the march, KMT Vice-Chairman Hau Lung-pin (郝龍斌) took the opportunity to ask more people to sign the petition against lifting the food ban.

The petition has been signed by an estimated 78,000 people so far, with Hau stating in a previous interview that the number of signatures could reach 93,000 by year’s end.

KMT Legislator Lin Wei-jo (林為洲) said the brief suspension of plans to lift the ban was a direct result of nationals across Taiwan sending petitions in opposition.

http://www.chinapost.com.tw/taiwan/national/national-news/2016/12/26/487690/p2/Thousands-protest.htm

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Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu, front third right, attends a demonstration along Taipei’s Ketagalan Boulevard yesterday against the proposed lifting of a ban on food imports from five Japanese prefectures.

KMT leads public protests over Japanese import ban

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday took to the streets of Taipei, threatening to recall any lawmakers who voice support for the lifting of the nation’s import ban on Japanese food products from five Japanese prefectures, urging President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration to provide the public with an explanation.

Taiwan imposed import restrictions on food products from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures following the meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011.

Addressing a rally against the relaxation of the ban outside the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall MRT Station in the afternoon, KMT Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) accused Tsai’s administration of caving in to Japanese pressure and “forcing radiation-contaminated foods down the throats of Taiwanese.”

We do not understand the Democratic Progressive Party’s [DPP] sudden flip-flop; we do not understand why the government is forcing people and their children to consume radiation-tainted food; and we do not understand … why we have to import radiation-contaminated food products just because of pressure from Japan,” Hung said.

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December 25, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

8 Taiwanese firms to be fined for importing food from radiation-affected areas

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Taipei, Dec. 18 (CNA) Fines will be imposed on eight companies which have been found to have imported foods from Japan’s radiation-affected areas, Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Sunday.

As of Sunday, a total of 39 Japanese food products and nearly 60,000 items have been pulled from store shelves in Taiwan, with many of them being soy sauce and wasabi packets that go with Japanese natto, or fermented soybeans.

FDA Northern Center Senior Executive Officer Wei Jen-ting (魏任廷) said 103 importers and 849 distributors island-wide have been questioned since Monday, urging vendors to check the food items they are selling, and notify health authorities if their products came from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures.

Of the 39 products, 26 have tested negative for radiation contamination, while 13 are still being screened, Wei said.

Among the eight importers of these problematic products, Tai Crown Co. (太冠公司) is subjected to a fine of NT$1 million, he said.

The FDA said it will step up inspection of food imported from Japan and will ask importers and distributors to list the places of origin, including the prefecture, on the product labels in Chinese.

Failure to provide Chinese labeling could also result in a fine of between NT$30,000 (US$937) and NT$3 million, it said.

The affected companies have one month to explain themselves, or else the fines will be issued in accordance with the law.

http://focustaiwan.tw/news/asoc/201612180019.aspx

December 19, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Taiwan recalls 37 food products from Japan’s radiation-affected area

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Taiwan recalls 37 food products from Japan’s radiation-affected area

Taipei, Dec. 16 (CNA) A total of 37 Japanese food products have been pulled from store shelves in Taiwan, after they were found to have come from Japan’s radiation-affected areas, Taiwanese authorities said Friday.

As of Thursday, 50,316 pieces of these products have been recalled, with many of them being soy sauce and wasabi packets that came with Japanese natto, or fermented soybeans, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA launched an inspection of food products from Japan on Dec. 12, after two brands of Japanese natto were found to contain packets of soy sauce from Ibaraki Prefecture, one of the five prefectures from which food imports have been banned.

Taiwan banned food imports from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures after the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011.

Of the 37 products, 22 have tested negative for radiation contamination, while 15 are still being screened, according to the FDA.

Under Taiwan’s ban, even food products that test negative for radiation are restricted from being sold here, as long as they came from one of the five Japanese prefectures.

Among the recalled products is a brand of natto called “Hiruzen Nattou,” which was imported by Deep Cypress Co. (柏泓企業). The soy sauce and wasabi packets that were served with the product were found to have been made in Chiba Prefecture, said Wei Jen-ting (魏任廷), an official with the FDA.

The product was sold in supermarkets in department stores such as SOGO and Shinkong Mitsukoshi, Wei said.

Meanwhile, many of the 37 products were imported by Yumaowu Enterprise Co. (裕毛屋企業), according to the FDA.

Chiu Hsiu-yi (邱秀儀), director of the FDA’s Northern Center for Regional Administration, said the FDA will step up inspection of food imported from Japan and will ask importers and distributors to list the place of origin, including the prefecture, on the product label in Chinese.

If companies refuse to abide by the rules, the FDA said it will reveal their names to the public.

Failure to provide Chinese labeling could also result in a fine of between NT$30,000 (US$937) and NT$3 million, the FDA said, adding that the public can call the hotline 1919 to report such cases.

The recall of Japanese products comes amidst strong opposition to the Taiwanese government’s hopes of lifting the ban on food exports from at least some of the five affected areas if they are found to be free of radiation.

http://focustaiwan.tw/news/asoc/201612160020.aspx

 

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Unsourced Japanese snacks removed from shelves

Taipei, Dec. 16 (CNA) Two kinds of snacks sold at a shopping mart chain in Taoyuan were found to have come from unidentified source in Japan and have been ordered removed from shelves, health officials from Taoyuan City Government said Friday.

The officials said they launched an inspection of labels of origin on food imported from Japan on Dec. 9, checking a total of 707 food products in 273 shops.

On Thursday the Chinese labels of two snacks sold in Poya LivingMart identified them as having come Gifu prefecture, but the original labeling said they were from Tochigi prefecture, one of the radiation-affected areas from which food imports are banned in Taiwan.


After checking the manufacturer’s official website, the product was found to have been manufactured in Tochigi and Iwate, not Gifu.
Health officials have instructed the shop to stop selling the products immediately.

Poya Living Mart’s 11 outlets in Taoyuan have removed a further 214 packages of related food.

The incident came at a time of growing public concern over the safety of food products from five radiation-affected prefectures in Japan.

Taiwan banned food imports from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown following a massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11, 2011.

Following reports that the government is planning to lift the ban on food imports from four of the radiation-affected prefectures, though not Fukushima, several brands of Japanese natto containing packets of soy sauce from Chiba and Ibaraki were recently found in local retail outlets. They were also ordered removed.

http://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3053224

 

 

 

December 19, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Taiwan to hold off on plans for problematic Japanese food imports

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Cabinet spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇)

 

Taipei, Dec. 16 (CNA) The government is to put on hold a planned opening of food products from radiation-affected prefectures in Japan amid public misgivings about food safety, a Cabinet spokesman said Friday.

Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said in a news conference Friday that the Cabinet “has to first ensure a sound inspection and management mechanism,” before talking about any opening to food products from the affected areas of Japan.

Hsu pointed out that Premier Lin Chuan (林全) has stressed the importance of “rebuilding public trust in the government’s management of food safety,” after presiding over a cross-agency meeting the previous day.

The premier also said that “without a sound inspection and management mechanism, there can be no question of such an opening,” according to Hsu.

Taiwan banned food imports from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown following a massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11, 2011.

Amid reports that the government is planning to lift its ban on food imports from the radiation-affected prefectures except for Fukushima, several brands of Japanese natto containing packets of soy sauce from Chiba and Ibaraki have recently been found in Taiwan.

Hsu said that although food products from Fukushima and the surrounding prefectures are banned, there are composite packaging foods, such as the condiment sashets in packages of instant noodles, that have not been subjected to scrutiny.

“The government will review the issue and plug the loopholes,” Hsu said.

Before establishing a sound management mechanism, the government will not make a decision, “and there is no timetable for any such opening,” Hsu said.

He said that there will be three more public hearings on imports of controversial Japanese food products, saying that holding the public hearings is significant in three ways.

They are aimed at establishing a model for future public hearings, then at clarifying false information, as the public has seen all kinds of rumors flying recently.

The public hearings will also be presided over by civic groups rather than by government officials as in previous hearings, in a bid to collect views from the public on how to plug loopholes for the reference of the government, he said.

Sheu Fuu (許輔), director of food safety office under the Executive Yuan, said that all questions raised by the civic groups will be discussed and clarified one by one.

The Cabinet held 10 public hearings on the safety of Japanese products around Taiwan from Nov. 12-14 after announcing them Nov. 10, but critics saw them as essentially being held for show to pave the way for lifting the ban.

Questions were raised about why the government seemed in such a rush to hold the hearings, and some of them ended in chaos amid protests.

Sheu said that if the public still cannot accept the situation after the three public hearings, the government will review the contentious points, and if it cannot resolve such points and effectively manage food safety, “it will not rule out the possibility of maintaining the current ban.”

http://focustaiwan.tw/news/aipl/201612160007.aspx

December 16, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Food Products Imported from Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Zone Recalled in Taiwan and Hong-Kong

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Muji ready meals, natto food products imported from Fukushima nuclear disaster zone recalled in Taiwan

TAIPEI – Two types of Muji ready meals were removed from shelves in Taiwan after they were found to have come from areas affected by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The Japanese lifestyle store removed 638 packets of the products from Tochigi prefecture voluntarily, Taiwan’s China Times reported on Wednesday (Dec 14).

The two products are the conger eel rice kit and the crab rice kit, said Ms Qiu Xiu-yi, northern district head of the Food and Drug Adminstration of Taiwan.

Muji Hong Kong said on Thursday that it was recalling the two products, following the reports in Taiwan. 

“In consideration of customers’ concern, Muji Hong Kong has removed the related products from sales floor immediately and is recalling the related products,” it said on its website. “Customers can bring their purchased products to Muji stores in Hong Kong for refund.”

In Taiwan, natto or fermented soybean products imported by Yu Mao Trading were also found to have come from Chiba prefecture, another affected zone.

Five natto products, or 1,465 items in total, were recalled.

Companies which do not report the origin of food imports accurately can be fined NT$30,000 to NT$3 million (S$1,350 to S$135,0000), the Taiwanese report said.

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/muji-ready-meals-natto-food-products-imported-from-fukushima-nuclear-disaster-zone

December 16, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Taiwan protests at Public Hearings about Japanese food & Citizen Group Radiation Measuring

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Public hearings on Japanese food in Tainan ends in rowdy protests

Taipei, Nov. 12 (CNA) A melee broke out at a public hearing in Tainan on lifting the ban on imports of currently banned Japanese food from radiation-affected prefectures when protesters clashed with government officials Saturday.

A total of 10 public hearings are scheduled from Nov. 12-14 in the northern, central, southern and eastern parts of Taiwan, as part of a government move widely seen as paving the way for its impending lifting of a five-year ban on Japanese produce from the prefectures affected by radiation following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.

The public hearing in Tainan was the first of the 10, and was presided over by Chen Chun-yen (陳俊言), head of the department of international cooperation under the Council of Agriculture. Also on hand were Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) , deputy director of the Council of Agriculture, and officials from the Office of Food Safety under the Executive Yuan, the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Atomic Energy Council.

But shortly after the opening of the public hearing, Tsai Yu-hui(蔡育輝), a caucus whip of the opposition Kuomintang at the Tainan City Council, and City councilor Lu Kun-fu (盧崑福), led around two dozen protesters into the venue, demanding that the public hearing be suspended.

They lashed out at the central government for its “sneaky” way of holding the public hearing. Lu said that, as a Tainan city Councilor, he only learned about the public hearing Friday evening.

An agitated Lu later twice pushed and shoved Chen Chun-yen during the protest. Tsai and Lu presented a signature book to show that only one citizen attended the public hearing, shouting “is this the one-man public hearing?”

They questioned if this was really a public hearing with only government officials, protesters and policemen attending. The protesters also dashed to the chairman’s table and hoisting protest cards, with some smashing the papers on the chairman’s table and spilliing his cup of water, shouting angrily that “the food that even Japanese would not eat are going to be exported to Taiwan. Are (our) children worth nothing?”

A larger contingent of police force was sent in to help maintain order, and the public hearing was interrupted for nearly one hour.

When it reopened, the protesters said the procedure was a gross violation of regulations, noting that a public hearing should be announced 10 days before it is held. “This public hearing doesn’t count, as the Executive Yuan has grossly violated the law,” a protester said.

Chen Chun-yen said that the COA will review the procedural issue.

About 10 minutes before the forum ended, the chairman’s table was overturned. Chen Chun-yen then called an end to the forum after the scheduled two-hour period for the forum had expired. Both COA officials left the venue under police escort.

A similar public hearing was held in Chiayi Saturday morning in which participants said the government’s responsibility is to protect the people and ensure food safety.

They asked why the government wants to import risky food from Japan. Chen Chi-chung has said that a partial reopening of currently banned Japanese products could come next year, but would not include items from Fukushima.

In an interview with CNA on Thursday, he said Japan will still be required to produce certificates of radiation inspection and certificates of origin with each shipment, and Taiwan will also inspect imports shipment by shipment at its border.

Food imports from the Japanese prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba have been suspended in Taiwan since March 25, 2011 because of fears of radioactive contamination in those areas from a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

The nuclear disaster was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunamis on March 11, 2011.

Since May 15, 2015, importers of Japanese food products have been required to present certificates of origin to prove that their items do not originate from any of the five prefectures.

For some imports such as tea, baby food, dairy and aquatic products, radiation inspection certificates are also required.

Various Japanese groups have reportedly asked Taiwan to lift the ban since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) assumed office in May. Her administration is keen to build stronger ties with Japan.

http://focustaiwan.tw/news/asoc/201611120005.aspx

Group to measure Japan radiation

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

Green Consumers’ Foundation chairman Jay Fang (方儉) said that while a government team went to Japan in August, it did not have its own radiation detection equipment.

The team relied entirely on data provided by Japan, and the report provided was very “rough,” he said.

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

Taiwan suspended food imports from the Japanese prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba following the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster.

The Executive Yuan on Thursday evening announced that 10 public hearings would be held nationwide from yesterday to tomorrow on the issue, amid reports that it will soon lift the ban on imported food items from the prefectures.

Fang said that he has two-and-a-half years of experience working in a laboratory and that his companions also have similar experience.

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

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

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2016/11/13/2003659171

November 13, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Taiwan Minister Says Import Ban not a Bargaining Chip

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Minister of Health and Welfare Lin Tzou-yien (林奏延) yesterday told lawmakers that the ministry would not risk the health of Taiwanese by lifting a ban on food imports from five Japanese prefectures near the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

Lin made the remarks at a meeting of the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee yesterday morning, which was to review the ministry’s general budget for next year.

Amid reports that Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) last week asked the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus about the possibility of lifting the ban on agricultural products from the five prefectures — just days before the first round of the Taiwan-Japan Maritime Affairs Cooperation Dialogue Mechanism in Tokyo on Monday — Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) asked the minister if it was true the government planned to lift the ban as part of a trade-off.

Food and Drug Administration Director-General Chiang Yu-mei (姜郁美) said that the council report to the DPP caucus was only to explain risks and that it has implemented strict food import controls at borders to help ensure food safety.

She said all food imports from Japan not from the five prefectures — Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba — must have a certificate of origin and a certificate proving they are free of radioactive contamination, adding that the agency would publish a products company name, if radiation readings were above legal tolerances.

At present, we have no plans to lift the ban,” Lin said. “The ministry takes protecting the people’s health as its most important duty.”

After Chiang twice asked Lin to confirm that the government would not use lifting the ban as a negotiation tool in its talks with Japan on maritime affairs, Lin said that it would not.

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2016/11/03/2003658479

November 6, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Ban on food from Japan’s radiation-affected areas remains: Taiwan FDA

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Taipei, Oct. 6 (CNA) The food and Drug Administration (FDA) reaffirmed Thursday that there is no timetable for any lifting of a ban on food imports from five Japanese prefectures that were affected by radiation fallout from a nuclear power plant meltdown following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

“There is no timetable for any such opening,” FDA Director-General Chiang Yu-mei (姜郁美) told CNA.

She declined to comment on reports that Taiwan and Japan have reached an initial consensus on Taiwan’s opening to food imports from the five prefectures.

Taiwan banned food imports from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures in the wake of the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on March 11, 2011.

FDA Deputy Director-General Lin King-fu (林金富) said that food safety remains the primary concern, adding that the FDA will take stock of the management measures of other countries and continue to assess the situation.

Japanese media reported in May that Taiwan was planning to reopen to food imports from the five prefectures, but the reports were denied by the FDA. Reports resurfaced Thursday again about a lifting of the ban, and that formal opening could come early next year.

However, Pan Chih-kuan (潘志寬), an FDA food section chief, said that no related instructions have been received and that the assessment on Japanese food is still underway.

He stressed the three premises for opening — results of border inspection, monitoring results in Japan and the public’s attitude toward opening.

He said that since 2011, border inspections on 92,000 Japanese food items have been carried out, with 215 items found to contain a tiny amount of cesium. One item was found to contain the radioactive material in the past year.

http://focustaiwan.tw/news/asoc/201610060009.aspx#.V_b8QyR8f38.facebook

October 7, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Taiwan FDA mulls lower threshold for food firm certification

Minister of Health and Welfare Lin Tzou-yien (林奏延) yesterday dismissed media reports that the ministry is planning to lift a ban on food imports from five Japanese prefectures that were affected by radioactive fallout from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster in March 2011.

The Chinese-language United Daily News yesterday said that Japanese media had reported that Taiwan would gradually lift the ban on food imports from the five prefectures.

The United Daily News report also said that Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director-General Chiang Yu-mei (姜郁美) had stated that there is the possibility of gradually allowing food imports from four prefectures of the five affected prefectures — excluding Fukushima.

Since the disaster, all food imports from five Japanese prefectures — Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba — have been banned.

“From when I took office on May 20, we have not discussed any issues about radioactive contaminated products from the five Japanese prefectures at all” Lin said in response to media queries.

Regarding rumors that Chiang had admitted the possibility, Lin said: “It is what I say that counts.”

Later, at a meeting of the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee, Chiang responded to lawmakers’ queries over the issue by saying that his ministry “had not had any contact or discussion” with Japan over the issue.

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2016/05/31/2003647556

May 31, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment