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Fri Feb 27 08:00:56 SAST 2015

Russian police intercept radioactive used cars from Japan

Sapa-dpa | 07 June, 2011 11:43

Image by: REED HOFFMANN

Russian police turned back used cars arriving from Japan because the vehicles were contaminated with radioactive isotopes possibly leaked from the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, the Interfax news agency reported Tuesday.

Six of a ferryload of 170 previously owned vehicles sent from the Japanese port of Toyama to the Russian port Magadan were emitting radiation at rates between two and three times higher than acceptable levels, a Russian customs officer said.

Laboratory tests of the six autos showed them to be polluted with caesium-134 and caesium-137, said Yury Kishinsky, vice commander of the Magadan customs branch.

Both caesium isotopes are among the radioactive elements known to have leaked at Fukushima because of damage to the station from a March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

It was not immediately clear how the automobiles had become irradiated, but they were not going to stay in Russia, Kishinsky said.

"The cars are on a boat back to Japan. We certainly aren't going to attempt any kind of decontamination here," he said.

A Magadan-based company had ordered the vehicles with the intent of reselling them in the Russian market, according to the report.

Previously owned Japanese vehicles are extremely popular in Russia's Far East due to their low cost and high reliability, as compared to domestic automobiles.

Kishinsky said custom officers in Russia's Far Eastern province have, in the last two months, halted some 50 automobiles from being imported from Japan, because they showed radiation traces higher than normal levels.

The "greater part" of those were eventually cleaned of radioactive emitters, so that they could eventually be safely turned over to owners. But a few vehicles proved so contaminated they had to be returned to sender, he said.

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