Radioactive gravel likely shipped to over 200 companies
Radioactive gravel thought responsible for high radiation readings in a new apartment complex in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, was likely shipped to over 200 companies, making its way into apartments, bridges, and possibly temporary homes for evacuees, according to government investigators.
The gravel was kept in a part of the town of Namie, in an area near the disaster-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. From the time the nuclear disaster began to the establishment of the area as an evacuation zone on April 22, the company owning the gravel had shipped 5,200 metric tons of it to 19 companies, according to national and local government sources.
Two of the receiving companies were ready-mix concrete companies and the rest were construction companies. However, the gravel was then reportedly sent on to over 200 other companies, where it was used in building materials.
On Jan. 16, Fukushima Prefectural Government officials agreed at a meeting to work to help move residents from the homes affected by the radioactive gravel, investigate the source of the contamination, and check for other places where contaminated building materials may have been used.
After the nuclear disaster began, standards were set for reuse of sludge and debris that may have been irradiated, but none were set for gravel used in concrete. The gravel industry is regulated by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The ministry investigated the gravel industry in areas near the plant in May of last year, but after being told that "the businesses have evacuated and no one is making shipments," it took no special measures.
Since the problem with the gravel surfaced, many calls criticizing the slowness of the government's response have reportedly come in to a call center for the national government set up in Fukushima Prefecture.
Kinki University professor Hideo Yamazaki compared the gravel problem to the one of irradiated straw being sent out around the country: "It's exactly the same problem. The stone quarry is inside the evacuation zone, and what happened was something the government could have predicted. It's frustrating that the government does not think about the movement of materials, including gravel. The ones I feel sorry for are the gravel producers. It was impossible for them to notice the contamination at the time of shipping, and it's not right for them to be blamed. The government's actions have all been reactionary, and the locals are paying for it."
(Mainichi Japan) January 16, 2012