S. D. Wells
November 8, 2011
Having up to 20 times the permissible level of radiation, more than 600 cars from plants near the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan have been retained from export. However, many dealers are still selling suspicious cars at dump prices to the domestic used car market.
Japan has a major export business that ships cars to Russia and Southeast Asia, but dealers are finding themselves stuck selling the radioactive cars in Japan. It’s a very difficult process to decontaminate the automobiles, so the cars are being sold at certain auctions where there are no restrictions. Also, the origin of these cars is getting tougher to trace since many dealers are re-registering them with their local registrations. The number of radioactive cars could be multiple times higher than previously estimated.
The by-passing of inspections doesn’t always work though, since JU Fukushima, which oversees a majority of car auctions, tests every single car and rejects any that emits over 1 microsieverts per hour. Since August, export regulations have been drastically tightened from 5.0 to 0.3 microsieverts. According to the Japan Harbor Transportation Association, as of last month at least 1% of all cars tested had failed, with some registering up to 110 microsieverts per hour.
One car that was left in a parking lot just 25 miles from the nuclear accident had over 30 microsieverts of hourly radiation before being moved. That car went to auction in Saitama, where it didn’t sell, and then was moved to another auction in Chiba. No one knows where the car is now.
Radioactive control experts say there are practical difficulties in the decontamination process,especially for the interiors of carslike the seats, carpet and dashboards. Currently, there are no guidelines for levels of radiation in used cars, and consumers in Japan are very frustrated.
Masahiro Fukushi, professor of radioactive substances control at Shuto University in Tokyo, suggests that the government should quickly establish guidelines for used cars so consumers can buy them with confidence.
Limited auto production is due to start at most plants in Japan this week, but it isn’t production and exportation that’s the problem; it’s winning back American confidence that the cars are safe.
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This article was posted: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at 3:48 am