Workers at a demolition site near the meltdown-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant took and sold iron scraps from waste possibly contaminated with radioactive materials, Environment Ministry officials said Tuesday.
Workers at a subcontractor of Kajima, tasked with the demolition, took the scraps without permission, violating the process of dealing with contaminated waste as stipulated by law.
General contractor Kajima, commissioned by the ministry to carry out the demolition, has consulted the Fukushima Prefectural Police over the matter.
The site, a library-museum complex in the town of Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, is in a specified reconstruction area in a so-called difficult-to-return zone, where entry is still strictly restricted due to high levels of radiation following meltdowns at the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings plant in March 2011.
Kajima is said to have told the ministry earlier this year that workers at the subcontractor had taken iron scraps without measuring their radioactive concentration and sold them to businesses.
According to laws including the special measures law for dealing with radioactive contamination caused by the nuclear disaster, waste from demolition sites in disaster-affected areas must be collected at designated temporary storage sites and have its radioactive concentration measured.
Waste with radiation levels of more than 100,000 becquerels per kilogram is stored in an interim storage facility near the Fukushima No. 1 plant, while waste with lower levels is sent to a specialized disposal site.
The ministry has instructed contractors to prevent recurrences by strengthening their monitoring systems and employee education efforts, a ministry official said.