Fukushima nuclear wastewater worries keep 25% of Hong Kong residents from Japan travel: Study

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19th February 2024 – (Hong Kong) In the wake of Japan’s decision to release treated nuclear wastewater from the stricken Fukushima power plant, a significant portion of Hong Kong’s populace has expressed trepidation. A recent survey conducted by City University of Hong Kong has shed light on the concerns held by residents regarding the potential health implications of the wastewater discharge.

The study, encompassing the views of over 1,400 Hong Kong locals between October and November 2023, has unearthed a palpable anxiety, with 60 per cent of interviewees wary of the health repercussions they associate with the release of the nuclear water. This fear is rooted in the belief that exposure could lead to an increased risk of diseases.

The survey has also highlighted a demographic divide in the perception of risk associated with nuclear waste. Notably, among the older demographic, those over 50 years of age, apprehension is markedly higher. This group has a 60 per cent prevalence of individuals avoiding food sourced from Fukushima, and a notable 30 percent are disinclined to set foot in Japan due to the recent developments.

Conversely, the city’s youth appears less perturbed by the potential risks. Within the age bracket of 20 to 29, a mere 40 per cent express anxiety over consuming Fukushima-sourced produce, and a striking 80 percent remain open to traveling to Japan.

The findings also reveal a broadly supportive stance for radiation monitoring processes. Over 70 percent of respondents advocate for comprehensive radiation level assessments of imported Japanese foodstuffs, regular public announcements of test outcomes, and vigilant monitoring of local radiation levels, particularly in seafood. This measured approach is favoured over the imposition of import restrictions, as it is seen to effectively mitigate potential health risks.

Despite the voiced unease concerning Fukushima’s nuclear wastewater, the research indicates that the allure of Japan as a travel destination and the appeal of its products persist. The survey underscores a complex relationship between perceived health risks and the enduring cultural and economic ties between Hong Kong and Japan.

The City University team has pointed out a critical insight: while concerns over Fukushima’s impact are tangible, they do not completely overshadow the strong interest of Hong Kong residents in engaging with Japan. The findings suggest that while caution is evident, it does not amount to a wholesale aversion. This nuanced response could inform future policy and public information campaigns, ensuring they are tailored to address specific concerns while fostering informed choices among the Hong Kong public.