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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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Tesla sold 52,859 China-made vehicles in November – CPCA

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December 8, 2021

BEIJING (Reuters) – U.S. electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc sold 52,859 China-made vehicles in November, including 21,127 for export, the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) said on Wednesday.

Tesla, which is making Model 3 sedans and Model Y sport-utility vehicles in Shanghai, sold 54,391 China-made vehicles in October, including 40,666 that were exported.

Chinese EV makers Nio Inc 10,878 cars last month, a monthly record high, and Xpeng Inc delivered 15,613 vehicles. Volkswagen AG said it sold over 14,000 ID. series EVs in China in November.

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CPCA said passenger car sales in November in China totalled 1.85 million, down 12.5% from a year earlier.

(Reporting by Sophie Yu, Brenda Goh; editing by Jason Neely)

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Renault Zoe goes from hero to zero in European safety agency rating

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December 8, 2021

By Nick Carey

LONDON (Reuters) – French carmaker Renault on Wednesday received a blow for its popular Zoe electric model, as the European New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) gave it a zero-star safety rating in tests that are standards for Europe.

The carmaker, which is cutting costs and working to turn around its performance after overstretching itself over years of ambitious global expansion, also received a one-star rating for its electric Dacia Spring model.

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Euro NCAP said the latest Zoe had a worse seat-mounted side airbag than earlier versions. Euro NCAP noted the Renault Laguna had been the first car ever to receive a five-star rating in 2001.

“Renault was once synonymous with safety,” Euro NCAP secretary general Michiel van Ratingen said in a statement. “But these disappointing results for the ZOE and the Dacia Spring show that safety has now become collateral damage in the group’s transition to electric cars.”

In the year through October, the Zoe was the third top-selling fully-electric car in Europe, behind Tesla’s Model 3 in top place and Volkswagen’s ID.3.

In a press release titled “Hero to Zero,” UK insurance group Thatcham Research noted the Zoe had initially received a five-star rating back in 2013.

“It’s a shame to see Renault threaten a safety pedigree built from the inception of the rating,” said Matthew Avery, Thatcham’s chief research strategy officer and a Euro NCAP board member.

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Eleven cars received ratings in Euro NCAP’s final round of tests for 2021, which did not include Tesla models.

A number of other vehicles received five-star ratings, including BMW’s electric iX, Daimler’s electric Mercedes-Benz EQS, Nissan’s Qashqai and Volkswagen’s VW Caddy.

(Reporting By Nick Carey; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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Weibo shares close down 7.2% in Hong Kong debut

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December 8, 2021

By Scott Murdoch

HONG KONG (Reuters) -Chinese social media giant Weibo Corp’s shares closed 7.2% below their issue price in Hong Kong on Wednesday, as it became the latest U.S.-listed China stock to seek out a secondary listing closer to home.

The Hong Kong debut was in line with a fall in Weibo’s primary listing in New York after a torrid week for U.S.-listed China shares, which are facing greater U.S. regulatory scrutiny and also under pressure from Chinese authorities.

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Weibo, which raised $385 million for its Hong Kong listing, opened at $256.20 and closed at HK$253.2 after a volatile debut session.

The stock had been priced at HK$272.80 each in its secondary listing in which 11 million shares were sold.

“For Weibo, it’s a matter of timing. The Hong Kong market had started to rebound this week and now we are seeing some softness emerging in the market,” said Louis Tse, Wealthy Securities director in Hong Kong.

Weibo’s fall came as Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index closed Wednesday up 0.06% while the Tech Index was 0.03% higher.

Some major stocks such as Alibaba Group Holdings, down 4.35%, were off sharply as sentiment towards tech majors remains fragile.

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“The listing market in Hong Kong is very lukewarm right now,” said Dickie Wong, Kingston Securities executive director.

“Plus, there is regulatory pressure from the (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission) on Chinese companies to disclose basically everything within three years.

“So there is a major trend that most of the U.S.-listed Chinese companies will seek secondary or dual primary in Hong Kong so they can exit the U.S. market if they need to.”

Ride-hailing giant Didi Global decided last week to delist from New York https://www.reuters.com/technology/didi-global-start-work-delisting-new-york-pursue-ipo-hong-kong-2021-12-03, succumbing to pressure from Chinese regulators concerned about data security and denting sentiment toward Chinese stocks.

Hong Kong and China’s mainland STAR Market have attracted $15.2 billion worth of secondary listings from U.S. listed Chinese companies so far this year, according to Refinitiv data.

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“The moves are probably based on the increasing recognition that the U.S.-China decoupling will not stop and will proceed steadily,” said LightStream Research analyst Mio Kato, who publishes on Smartkarma.

“I would expect a continuous flow of listings from New York to Hong Kong over the next year or two.”

The U.S administration is progressing plans to delist Chinese companies if they do not meet the country’s auditing rules, which could affect more than 200 companies.

Chinese companies https://www.reuters.com/business/us-sec-mandates-foreign-companies-spell-out-ownership-structure-disclose-2021-12-02 that list on U.S. stock exchanges must disclose whether they are owned or controlled by a government entity, and provide evidence of their auditing inspections, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said last week.

(Reporting by Scott Murdoch and Donny Kwok; editing by Richard Pullin and Louise Heavens)

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