Radioactive gravel tied to more prefabs

Kyodo

It is highly likely that radiation-tainted gravel quarried near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant was used to build three temporary housing complexes in Fukushima Prefecture, sources said Wednesday.

The Fukushima Prefectural Government is currently running tests to confirm whether the contaminated gravel, which was shipped from the Futaba Saiseki Kogyo quarry company, was actually used to construct the complexes, the sources said.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is investigating the gravel’s distribution routes and recently discovered that two companies probably used it to make concrete while erecting the three housing complexes.

The prefectural government said its inspections to date have confirmed that no contaminated concrete was used at 179 locations they have checked with construction companies across Fukushima Prefecture.

On Wednesday, however, officials said they had received information that the radioactive gravel might have been used to build the three complexes and is investigating.

“We have been checking radiation levels every day and we haven’t found high levels of radiation. So we are not very highly concerned, but we still feel the case is problematic,” said a 56-year-old man who heads a residents’ association at one of the housing complexes.

The issue emerged after the city of Nihonmatsu, also in Fukushima Prefecture, said Jan. 15 that abnormally high radiation readings were found in a new condominium built using concrete with gravel from the Namie quarrly.

The quarry shipped 5,725 tons of stone between March 11, when the twin disasters triggered the triple-meltdown crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, and April, when the government designated Namie as part of the nuclear exclusion zone.

Damages staff upped

KYODO

Tokyo Electric Power Co. is planning to increase the number of employees handling damages claims over the Fukushima nuclear crisis to more than 10,000 from the roughly 7,600 now assigned, company sources said.

The boost in manpower is needed to address claims from about 1.5 million residents in 23 municipalities that lie outside evacuation zones. The plan, expected to be submitted to Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano early next week, will be the pillar of the utility’s second emergency business plan being drawn up with the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund, the sources said Tuesday.

Tepco has been slow to respond to damages claims, with people already covered by the compensation program complaining that the filing process is cumbersome.

To address such complaints, Tepco plans to set up interview booths dedicated to handling claims from residents in the 23 municipalities. It will assign about a third of the roughly 3,000 new staff to that work, while tasking the remaining 2,000 to check paperwork needed to process claims.