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Fukushima farmers fear contaminated water could hurt business 10 years after nuclear disaster

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November 5, 2021

By Sakura Murakami

IWAKI, Japan (Reuters) – Farmers in Japan’s northeastern Fukushima fear the release of water from the crippled power plant there could revive concerns about contamination and again hit the price of their produce, undoing a decade of slow recovery from nuclear disaster.

Japan plans to release more than 1 million tonnes of contaminated water from the Fukushima plant into the sea from 2023 as part of an effort to clean up the site. Although international authorities support the plan, it has sparked concern from neighbours China and South Korea and worried local fisherman and farmers.

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“We’re just about seeing our prices go back to normal after a big drop following the disaster, but now we will have to deal with the potential reputational damage all over again because of the release of the water,” said Hiroaki Kusano, a pear farmer and vice-leader of the local agricultural co-operative.

Last year, for the first time since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated the northeast coast and triggered the nuclear disaster, the average price of Fukushima pears sold in Tokyo overtook those from some other prefectures, fetching 506 yen ($4.43) per kilo, data from the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market showed.

A year after the crisis, prices were at 184 yen a kilo, 20% below the average of more than 230 yen for other prefectures.

Fukushima’s produce goes through multiple checks for radioactivity, with farmers screening before shipment, while the prefecture also tests regularly.

Over the last decade, local produce has gone through a “thorough testing process, consistently” said Kazuhiro Okazaki of Fukushima’s Agricultural Technology Centre, which has screened produce for radioactive cesium since June 2011.

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Fukushima produced 13,000 tonnes of pears in 2020, making it Japan’s fourth-largest source of the popular fruit, official data showed.

DECOMMISSIONING

The Daiichi plant is being decomissioned as part of a clean-up by operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (Tepco) expected to take decades.

Some 1,000 tanks, each 12 metres tall, crowd the site and hold enough radioactive water to fill around 500 Olympic-sized swimming polls. The release of water that once passed through contaminated areas of the plant marks a milestone in decommissioning and will free up space for the clean-up.

The water will be processed to remove radioactive contamination apart from tritium, which cannot be removed. Tritium-contaminated water will be diluted to levels that meet international standards and released into the ocean a kilometre out from the plant around spring 2023.

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Tepco will compensate for damages related to the water release, said Junichi Matsumoto, a company official overseeing decommissioning work. Tepco says it has so far paid out some 10.1 trillion yen ($89 billion) in damages from the crisis.

“The first step is to listen to the voices of those impacted adversely by the water release,” Matsumoto said.

Water containing tritium is routinely released by nuclear plants around the world. But there are additional concerns because the Fukushima water has been sitting around for years, said Toru Watanabe, a radioactivity researcher at the Fukushima Fisheries and Marine Science Research Center.

“The water has been in those tanks for a long time. The quality of that water needs to be thoroughly understood before it’s released,” he said.

Farmers say there isn’t much they can do once the water is released. They worry about their tough customers – Japanese shoppers are famously picky about produce and pay close attention to freshness and place of origin.

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“All we can do is keep explaining all of the measures we have to ensure the safety of our produce,” said pear farmer Tomoichi Yoshioka. “The final decision lies with the consumer.”

(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by David Dolan and Gerry Doyle)

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Business

Canada’s Shopify records Black Friday sales up 21%

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November 27, 2021

(Reuters) – Canadian e-commerce company Shopify Inc recorded worldwide sales of nearly $2.9 billion on Black Friday, an increase of about 21% in comparison to last year, the company said Saturday.

New York, London and Los Angeles were among the top-selling cities, the company said, while apparel and accessories was the top-selling product category.

Shopify also said it funded 23,000+ tonnes of carbon removal to counteract emissions from the delivery of every order placed on its platform on Black Friday.

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(Reporting by Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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Xiaomi to open car plant in Beijing with annual output of 300,000 vehicles – Beijing govt

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November 27, 2021

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi Corp will build a plant that can produce 300,000 vehicles annually in Beijing for its electric vehicle unit, authorities in the capital said on Saturday.

The plant will be constructed in two phases and Xiaomi will also built its auto unit’s headquarters, sales and research offices in the Beijing Economic and Technological Development Zone, the government-backed economic development agency Beijing E-Town said on its official WeChat account.

Beijing E-Town said it anticipated the plant reaching mass production in 2024, a goal announced by Xiaomi’s Chief Executive Lei Jun in October.

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In March, Xiaomi said it would commit to investing $10 billion in a new electric car division over 10 years. The company completed the business registration of its EV unit in late August.

The company has been opening thousands of stores to spur domestic sales growth for its smartphone business but eventually intends to use these shops as a channel for its plans to sell electric vehicles.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by William Mallard)

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Eni sells Snam 49.9% stake in Algeria gas pipelines for 385 million euros

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November 27, 2021

MILAN (Reuters) -Italian energy group Eni has agreed to sell gas group Snam 49.9% of its stake in strategic pipelines carrying Algerian gas into Italy for 385 million euros ($436 million), the two companies said on Saturday.

The pipelines will be jointly controlled by the two companies, they said in a joint statement.

Italy imports more than 90% of its overall gas needs and Algerian gas currently accounts for around 30% of flows.

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“This transaction allows us to free up new resources to be used on our energy transition path,” Eni Chief Executive Claudio Descalzi said.

Eni is working on spinning off a series of oil and gas operations into new joint ventures to help reduce debt and fund its shift to low-carbon energy.

Snam, which owns a 20% stake in the TAP pipeline that carries Azeri gas into Italy, makes most of its money from managing Italy’s gas transport grid.

It has pledged to spend more on new green business lines such as hydrogen and, like other gas grid operators in Europe, is upgrading its gas network to be hydrogen ready.

“In the future, North Africa could also become a hub for producing solar energy and green hydrogen,” Snam CEO Marco Alvera said.

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The pipeline companies involved in the deal posted net income of around 90 million euros in 2020.

($1 = 0.8836 euros)

(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes, editing by Giselda Vagnoni)

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