Cars that were contaminated by radiation during the March nuclear meltdown in Japan are finding their way into the reeling nation's used car market.
Vehicles from the area around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which suffered a series of meltdowns after the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, were supposed to be destroyed. But unscrupulous dealers have registered them under new license plates and sold them, The Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported. Unable to export the cars, they're selling them in Japan.
Dealers have traditionally bought used vehicles in Japan and exported them to Russia and Southeast Asia, according to the Telegraph. In June, Russian police turned back a half-dozen used cars from Japan after finding they were contaminated with radioactove isotopes, according to the Interfax news agency. Authorities in South America, Australia and the U.S. have also stepped up inspection of new and used cars coming in from Japan.
Now, with testing also being conducted at Japanese loading docks, dealers are selling the potentially lethal cars on the domestic market.
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Nearly 700 cars have been barred from export for exceeding the legal radiation limit of 0.3 microsieverts per hour. One van that was re-registered and sold within Japan was found to emit 110 microsieverts of radiation an hour.
The dealer who bought the contaminated van, which had initially been registered in the town of Iwaki, within the 18-mile exclusion zone, said he sold the vehicle even after knowing it was poisoned because he wanted the money.
"I decontaminated repeatedly after the test and retested the filter of the air conditioner, the wipers and tires, replacing them thoroughly, but the radiation level dropped only to 30 microsieverts per hour," he said. "I decided to sell the vehicle in Japan because I couldn't afford to lose the money."