Radioactive gravel finds way to school

Hunt is on for other shipments from quarry in evacuation zone

Kyodo

Radiation-contaminated gravel shipped from a quarry in the evacuation zone around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant found its way to an elementary school building as well as roads and pathways around houses, sources said Wednesday.

The gravel went into concrete that was used to make an elementary school in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, more resistant to earthquakes. The area where the gravel was used had a radiation reading of 0.1 to 0.2 microsieverts per hour.

“We are surprised at the news as we had never expected it. We’d like to make efforts to ensure children’s health by checking the radiation level on a regular basis,” the school’s principal said.

The gravel was also used for approach lanes to two houses as well as in asphalt for city streets in Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture, the sources said.

The gravel came from a quarry company sometime between the start of the nuclear crisis March 11 and the government’s designation of the evacuation zone on April 22, they said.

Namie and parts of Kawamata are located in the evacuation zone around the nuclear plant.

The government has been trying to identify distribution routes and destinations of gravel and rock from the quarry company, Futaba Saiseki Kogyo, as well as other quarries in the area.

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano said Tuesday the government will speed up its effort to track the distribution routes.

The government said Monday it started the probe after it learned in December that a high level of radiation was detected on the first floor of a new condominium building in Nihonmatsu, whose concrete foundations were made by incorporating crushed stone from the Namie quarry.

The quarry company also said Monday that since the nuclear crisis started it has shipped 5,280 tons of gravel from Namie to 19 construction companies.

Radiation of up to 1.24 microsieverts per hour, higher than the level outside the condo building, was detected inside after a junior high school student living there showed cumulative exposure of 1.62 millisieverts in the three months through November.

Shipping of gravel from the evacuation area has not been permitted since the zone was officially established.

The government expanded its investigation to track the distribution routes by probing 16 other quarry companies located in areas with high radiation levels.

Depending on the outcome of the investigation, the government will consider prohibiting shipment of gravel from certain areas or companies and setting a radiation yardstick for shipments.

The Fukushima Prefectural Government says it will help residents of the new condominium building find new dwellings. The residents include evacuees from near the nuclear plant.