MOSCOW, November 6 (RIA Novosti) — A Japanese man is facing prosecution for illegally having sold radioactive substances, police in Tokyo have disclosed.
“The 54-year-old man has admitted to selling samples of americium-241 to eight people,” The Japan Times reports, adding that some of those who bought the substance used it to test radiation detection instruments.
The man told police that following the March 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power plant, and in anticipation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, he saw a money-making opportunity and “bought 15 pieces of the radioactive isotope sandwiched between radiation-absorbing metal plates from a website overseas for ¥1,100 to ¥1,200 (about $10) each,” the report says.
He is accused of reselling the samples for ¥3,500 to ¥4,500 each, breaking Japan’s Radiation Hazards Prevention Law. The substance in question, Americium-241, has a half-life of 432 years. Its most common use is in household and industrial smoke detectors, where a small amount is present in composite form.
The Fukushima disaster and the botched clean-up operation that followed it have left the Japanese public fearful about the effects of radiation, and mistrustful of authorities seeking to cover up environmental problems. One company specializing in radiation detection equipment, Medcom Inc, states on their website: “On March 11, 2011 all lines on the Medcom phone systems started ringing 24 hours a day.”
A week after the earthquake, an organization was formed to collect radiation measurements throughout Japan. Safecast is a project to chart radiation levels, maps of which are available online and contributed to by the public using such detection instruments. On its website, the organization says they have gathered more than 2,500,000 readings.
Public wariness of nuclear power persists despite the government’s enthusiasm to start using it again. In July of this year, the Asahi Shimbun conducted a nationwide survey on the planned restart of reactors at the Sendai nuclear power plant, which had passed stricter inspections by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority. 59 percent of respondents were opposed to the restart, and 60 percent said the government had not sufficiently learned the lessons of Fukushima.