News reports from Japan have revealed that car dealers in the country are selling automobiles that were contaminated by radiation following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami that resulted in a series of meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
A large number of previously owned radioactive vehicles that originated from within the exclusion zone that surrounds the Fukushima prefecture's power plant have made their way into the used car market, according to NBC News.
Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported that dealers, anxious to unload the contaminated cars, are re-registering the automobiles and then selling them with their new license plates.
Following the natural disaster that struck Japan in March, automobile manufactures announced they would begin testing all new vehicles for the presence of radioactive material before they left the plant. The national radiation limit in Japan for cars being exported for sale in other countries is 0.3 microsieverts an hour.
Car dealers who often export used vehicles to Russia and Southeast Asia are having shipments to those countries refused because of high radiation levels. Customs authorities in Russia have turned away hundreds of vehicles that were shipped to their country by Japanese used car dealers. Russia has been joined by Chile and Australia, who have both received shipments of automobiles contaminated with low levels of radiation.
As testing for radiation gets tougher, car dealers in Japan are left with two choices, destroy the vehicle as the government has required, or obtain new documentation and unload the automobile to an unsuspecting Japanese buyer. Many are opting for the latter.
One Japanese resident is reported to have purchased a van that was found to emit 110 microsieverts of radiation an hour from a dealer who says he bought the vehicle at an auction for $16,000, reports Fox News.
After the van was refused for export, the car dealer said he tried to decontaminate the vehicle and was able to get the radiation level down to 30 microsieverts. Majirox News reported, he decided to sell it it at an auction in Japan anyway. "What do you expect me to do. Take a loss on it,” he asked.
A used car dealer in the Fukushima prefecture said, “If they have Fukushima or Iwaki number plates, we re-register the cars elsewhere in the Kanto region and then auction them." To stop this unscrupulous business practice the managing director of the Japan Automobile Exporters Association, Yutaka Shioda, said, “All cars being auctioned in Japan should undergo radioactivity tests.”