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Monday, October 31, 2011

Car Dealers Selling Used Radioactive Cars

If the world ever needed an excuse not to trust an used car dealer, surely this story will give one pause.

As reported in the October 24, 2011 edition of the Ashahi Shimbun (Ashai Newspaper), many used car dealers in Japan who are now no longer able to export their vehicles overseas are selling them within Japan--and all have failed Japan's radioactive docks tests for export.

One car exporter says: “What you are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg. 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.”

According to the article, some dealers simply re-register the vehicles with their local registrations, which essentially erases all previous local registrations - which, simply put, makes it impossible to know where the car is from without doing a detailed investigation through a branch of the Transportation Department.

No one now knows where the car came from. It's radioactive background is no longer available.

Another automobile exporter said, “I purchased a minivan for ¥1.23 million (~Cdn/US $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 five 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?”

Regulations involving the export of vehicles has been increased, with an export limit of 0.3 microsieverts allowed.

The Japan Harbor Transportation Association has said that as of September 2011 only about one per cent of the vehicles tested had actually failed the radioactivity testing, with only a few actually surpassing five microsieverts - but that since August 2011, 660 cars had been refused export permission.

In Fukushima-ken (Fukushima Prefecture) the JU Fukushima oversees all car auctions in the prefecture by testing every car and rejecting any vehicle exceeding one microsieverts per hour.

Shioda Yutaka (surname first), managing director of the Japan Automobile Exporters Association, says: “All cars being auctioned in Japan should undergo radioactivity tests.”

Definitely a good idea. However, people in Japan and around the world are still somewhat wary of vehicles (and products) with Fukushima-ken vehicle identification numbers, and as such, are difficult to sell because of radiation fears.

One Fukushima-ken used car dealer told the newspaper that if a vehicle has a Fukushima-ken or Iwaki-ken number plate, it re-registers the car elsewhere in the Kanto region in order to auction it off successfully.

Professor Fukushi Masahiro of the Radioactive Substances Control and Handling at Shuto University in Tokyo says that there are great difficulties in decontaminating a car exposed to radiation or radioactive materials.

“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 says. "I really think that the government should put forth guidelines about permissible radioactivity levels in used cars so consumers can buy them with confidence.”

More stringent guidelines from all sectors of the government (Federal, prefectural and municipal) are needed.

A team of reporters with the Asahi Shimbun were able to track down a car that was left in a parking lot in Fukushima-ken, that was within 40 kilometers (25 miles) of the nuclear accident.

According to the newspaper, that car had been exposed to a calculated 30 microsieverts per hour of radiation for 26 hours before it was moved, implying that this car would have been exposed to 20 millisieverts per year of radiation - well above the country's safe limit of exposure.

The newspaper was able to trace the car first to an auction in Saitama-ken (Saitama Prefecture) where it didn’t sell, and then subsequently to an auction in Chiba-ken (Chiba Prefecture).

So... who has the car? When the newspaper contacted the auction company, they were politely rebuffed with: “Sorry, but rules don’t permit us to give out this information.”

Drivers should be on the lookout for white vehicle that doesn't need to use its headlights thanks to the freakishly bright green glow emanating from it and the driver.


  1. Radioactive cars are a serious matter. From the standpoint of a vehicle owner, such contaminated cars should not even be placed on the market. Strict monitoring of radioactive vehicles should be initiated.

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  5. You mean that if I will buy a car from car auction in japan I will get cars with radio active substance.

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