Japan – In Japan, recyclers in the disaster-stricken area of Fukushima are still concerned for the future of their businesses, according to a report in the Japanese Daily Automotive News. Following the emission of radioactive substances earlier this year from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, buyers of steel scrap and recycled auto parts are reluctant to purchase such products made in Fukushima.
Recently, many end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) with high levels of radiation have arrived at recyclers’ yards located near the nuclear plant danger zone. Even in Koriyama City, in the central part of Fukushima, recyclers are often asked by owners to dismantle vehicles which were taken from the danger zone. ‘We may reject such highly-radioactive vehicles because we need to protect workers’ health,’ says Yukio Tamura, President of the Fukushima prefecture’s Automobile Recyclers Association (ARA).
Although radiation levels of scrap fall typically to under 0.3 micro Sievert per hour immediately after treatment with a high-pressure washer, it has been found that the figure rises back above this threshold once the scrap dries. ‘Some member recyclers cannot ship their steel scraps at all,’ according to an ARA spokesman.
Some shredder operators have claimed that buyers of steel and non-ferrous metals in prefectures other than Fukushima have not visited their facilities since July. Trade has dropped off and prices have declined to almost half the national average, it is reported. Used radiators and condensers which were taken from ELVs in Fukushima have not been sold at all.
‘From now on, the number of ELVs with high levels of radiation will probably increase,’ says Mr Tamura. ‘Such vehicles are likely to spread nationwide. This is not just a local problem in Fukushima but also a serious problem all over Japan. In the worst case, such vehicles whose owners are not identified will be left illegally on the land.’