Dealers selling radioactive used cars in Japan


TOKYO (majirox news) — Japanese used car dealers who can’t export radioactive cars overseas are dumping them into the Japanese used car market, according to the Asahi Shimbun on Oct. 24. These cars have failed Japan’s dockside radioactive export tests.

“What you are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg,” said one car exporter to the Asahi who refused to be identified. “If a car gives off a high radioactivity count, it’s too much trouble to decontaminate it. It’s better to just sell it in a Japanese car auction where there are no restrictions. It’s like throwing away a bad card you were dealt in poker.”

Dealers re-register cars with their local registrations. Re-registering wipes out all prior local registrations and makes it impossible to know where the car is from without doing a detailed investigation through a branch of the Transportation Department. So the origin of a radioactive car can be easily concealed.

Japanese export inspections stop the export of any radioactive merchandise.

Another automobile exporter said, “I purchased a minivan for 1.23 million yen ($16,000) intending to export it to Southeast Asia. However, when it was brought to dockside and underwent radioactivity testing, it came in at 110 microsieverts, far exceeding Japan’s permissible limit of 5 microsieverts.

“After the car was refused for export, I tried over and over again to decontaminate it. The end result was that I was only able to get it down to 30 microsieverts. So I sold it at an auction in Japan. What do you expect me to do? Take a loss on it?”

Since August, regulations have been toughened up. The export limit is now 0.3 microsieverts. According to the Japan Harbor Transportation Association, as of September about 1% of all cars tested had failed the test, with a few registering over 5 microsieverts. A total of 660 cars have been refused export permission since August.

In Fukushima prefecture, there is a movement to weed out any radioactive used cars from sale. JU Fukushima, which oversees all car auctions in Fukushima prefecture, tests every car and rejects any automobile that is over 1 microsieverts per hour.

According to Yutaka Shioda, managing director of the Japan Automobile Exporters Association, “All cars being auctioned in Japan should undergo radioactivity tests.”

While this may be the ideal, the fact is the cars with Fukushima number plates are difficult to sell because of radiation fears.

A Fukushima prefecture used car dealer told the Asahi, “If they have Fukushima or Iwaki number plates, we re-register the cars elsewhere in the Kanto region and then auction them.”

Masahiro Fukushi, professor of Radioactive Substances Control and Handling at Shuto University in Tokyo, says that there are genuine practical difficulties in the way of decontaminating automobiles. “While it’s easy to wash off any contamination from the exterior of the car, it’s difficult to decontaminate the seats and the interior of the automobile,” he said. “I really think that the government should put forth guidelines about permissible radioactivity levels in used cars so consumers can buy them with confidence.”

Guidelines of some sort are badly needed. The team from the Asahi tracked a car originally left in a parking lot in Fukushima, within 40 kilometers (25 miles) of the nuclear accident that had been exposed to what the Asahi calculated were 30 microsieverts hourly of radiation for 26 hours before being moved. This would put the radioactivity of this car well above the Japanese permissible limit of 20 millisieverts per year.

So where is the car now? The Asahi team tracked the car first to an auction in Saitama prefecture where it didn’t sell, and then subsequently to an auction in Chiba prefecture. When the Asahi asked who had purchased the car, the auction company replied, “Sorry, but rules don’t permit us to give out this information.”

So where is the car ? Nobody knows.

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4 Responses to Dealers selling radioactive used cars in Japan

  1. Brendon David on 10/27/2011 at 8:25 am

    This is shocking, but not surprising. I guess the cars have to come somewhere and those small businesses are desparate to make a buck in the post-東北関東大震災 economy of Japan. I wonder what other products will that are contaminated will make their way out of Japan. Yikes.

  2. DANNY TIMPERIO on 12/07/2011 at 4:05 pm

    I purchased a car at auction from Chiba, how can I have the car checked for radiation?

  3. Karl on 12/12/2011 at 7:44 pm

    What a sad state of affairs – the authorities who ought to be vigilant for the sake of the health and well being of people of Japan, are looking the other way, while some unscrupulous car salesmen (whether they be importers of exporters) try their hardest to sell off their radioactively contaminated cars, while they cover their tracks. Their plans to auction off these hot potatoes to the unsuspecting Japanese buyer will in time be exposed I suppose, and obviously it is known to some, already.
    The fact that car salesmen want to make a profit on their used cars is not the issue, but that Gov’t regulators and health authorities and well informed Japanese professors are letting this slip by without a quick response, is another issue. Certainly, the authorities have been privy to the work of Marco Kaltofen and the reports coming out of the Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass.Institute. These have shown high levels of radioactive particulate matter in the air filters of automobiles collected by Safecast volunteers in Japan, from throughout Fukushima and surrounding prefectures,, and sent to the Institute for testing. The results show hot particles of radioactive material. In a report taped recently and carried in a video, Kaltofen states that the filters of a car act very much like the lungs of a person, and the deadly particulate matter found in these filters spells danger  for these who will have moved in the area at the times those cars were exposed, as well as those who drive the cars, and mechanics who work on those, with such contamination. The cars can’t be de-contaminated! the article stated. Even disposing of the filters after the testing proved to be a real problem for the Institute. Now think of the houses with their air conditioners, the multitudes of air filtering systems functioning in our society!” How ironic!-our lungs act as air filters but the filters become the carriers!. (check out, New Video of Scientist Kaltofen Presenting to American Public Health Association)
    Like the garbage brigade, would someone stop the cross prefectural sharing of contaminated cars?
    Huh? What cars? I didn’t see any contaminated cars, did you, Smitty?

  4. Bob2012 on 01/25/2012 at 5:19 am

    People really need to start considering the world as their house & stop irresponsible usage of technology which should not be used for mass production but for study and research until all its cicle is well known and considered good & safe for use !!!!

    Irresponsible Idiots !!

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