Is Radiation a Real Concern When Buying a Car from Japan?

Posted by Stephen On Saturday, March 19th, 2011

The recent earthquake and tsunami have had some knock on effect on the Japanese car auctions, which I have been updating you on regularly. However, it has been the unfolding drama at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima that has captured most media attention.

This focus in the media has led to a number of legitimate concerns among customers and potential customers of used cars from Japan. So here I will address these concerns so that anyone thinking of buying a car from Japan can make a decision based on the facts rather than fear or hearsay.

How close is the Fukushima nuclear facility to where cars are shipped from?

Most used cars are shipped out of Japan from the major ports in the Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo areas. Now, even the closest of these in the Tokyo area is about 200 miles from the nuclear power plant in question.

To put this into perspective, this is over ten times the distance of the exclusion zone of 30km that the Japanese government has imposed around the facility.

What is the risk of a car I buy being contaminated with radioactive substances?

Well first of all, although radiation doses right next to the nuclear plant have been high on occasion in the last week, according to the BBC, the substances released have a short half-life, which means that they quickly lose their ability to produce radiation.

Further away from the plant, just outside the 30km exclusion zone there has been nothing registered beyond very negligible changes. And to put this in perspective, staff at the Italian Embassy compared the levels of radiation at their embassy in Tokyo and found that it was actually lower than normal background radiation levels in Rome.

The car auctions in a similar area to the nuclear power station in Fukushima have been closed anyway due to earthquake damage, so there is no way at present you can even buy a car from this part of Japan anyway.

Another thing to bear in mind that the prevailing weather patterns would usually blow any substances that have been released out over the Pacific. This is almost the exact opposite direction to where most cars are being shipped out of. So the risk that radioactive material could be deposited on your car is minimal. And even if it was, we can arrange for them to be washed prior to shipping if you request this service.

Could there be a problem for importing cars from Japan now?

Well, our normal policy with importing rules is that you need to contact the local authorities in your country to see whether they have any restrictions on importing from Japan in general, and due to fears of radiation in particular.

However, what I can say at this point is that we have not heard any reports of customs authorities restricting the importation of Japanese used vehicles as a result of this nuclear accident.

Of course, if you have any concerns or questions, please contact us here. And if you would like to donate to the rescue work in Japan, we recommend doing so through the Red Cross.

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