Gravel contaminated with radioactive substances, which has been shipped from the quarry in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, has been used for the construction of apartment complexes and the repair of roads designated as school-commuting routes and irrigation canals.
The high levels of radiation in the condominium building was discovered thanks to a city survey on the accumulated exposure of radiation among primary and middle school students. As part of the survey, a dosimeter attached to a female middle school student living on the first floor of the building recorded up to 1.62 millisieverts of radioactivity for a three-month period from September to November.
The president of the gravel company that sold the pieces of broken stone said they were shipped from the quarry between March 25 to April 22. The latter date is when the area was designated as part of the expanded evacuation zone. Ready-mix concrete containing the gravel has been supplied to about 200 construction companies.
There are other quarries near areas designated as evacuation recommendation areas. The national and prefectural governments should thoroughly check if contaminated stone materials have been shipped from these firms.
The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry received a report late last year that high levels of radiation had been detected at the Nihonmatsu apartment complex, but had not launched a survey on radiation levels until around Jan. 10, highlighting its lack of a sense of crisis. If contaminated houses need to be rebuilt, compensation payments to their residents will emerge as a major problem.
The contaminated gravel, quarried in the town of Namie, was first discovered in the concrete at a new apartment block. Since then the material has been traced to repairs to a new school route road, a public pool in a neighboring town and a golf course in the prefecture, among other locations. According to the Nihonmatsu Municipal Board of Education, the stone was used in earthquake-proofing projects at the city’s elementary and junior high schools
The president of the golf course, meanwhile, was furious after it was found the gravel the course had been using to repair earthquake damage to its golf cart paths was emitting radiation of 1.6-1.8 microsieverts per hour.
The Nihonmatsu city government said the crushed stone was also mixed with fresh concrete used to repair an irrigation channel in April.
It believes the repaired section of the waterway is contaminated with radioactive cesium. A test conducted this month detected 1.62 to 1.97 microsieverts of radiation per hour at the waterway, higher than the 0.7 to 1.0 microsievert of radiation per hour found in surrounding areas.
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