Experts Fear Thieves May Have Sold Radioactive Scrap Metal

( – Japan’s Environment Ministry says that construction workers have stolen radioactive scrap metal from an area close to the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant. The Ministry also believes that the thieves have since sold the potentially dangerous material. The statement, made on September 21, came after the discovery that metal had gone missing from a museum that was in the process of being demolished at a site less than three miles away from the stricken power station.

The Fukushima power plant, located in northeast Japan, had been partially destroyed by a tsunami in 2011. An enormous earthquake caused waves to crash over the top of the approximately 30-foot-high protective wall around Fukushima designed to prevent such a catastrophe. The water caused cooling mechanisms to malfunction and resulted in a fuel melting in three of its reactors. Tens of thousands of local residents were forced to evacuate, with decontamination work still continuing today. By 2022, more areas around the power plant were deemed safe for return, although there is still a no-go zone directly around the plant itself.

The affected building, which formerly functioned as the town of Okuma’s local library and a museum dedicated to local folklore, was in a zone designated as “difficult to return to”, and was demolished between February and July this year at a cost of five billion yen (approximately $34 million USD). The team of construction companies tasked with the project reported the loss of material on July 26, telling the ministry that some employees had stolen scrap metal in order to sell it.

Ministry official, Kei Osada, says that there is hope that the scrap material will not be dangerously radioactive. Osada explained that the metal may have been taken from the interior frame of the building, in which case, it will have avoided much of the radiation in the wake of the 2011 nuclear accident. It has been reported that the rogue employees sold the metal to companies working outside of the area for a sum of 900,000 yen ($6000 USD).

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