South Korea: According to local media, Korea's cement firms have received US$127m from the Japanese government for three years from 2011 to 2013 for bringing in Japanese coal that is thought to have been contaminated with radioactivity.
According to data submitted by the Environment Ministry to Lee In-young of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, who is also a member of the National Assembly's environment labour committee, four domestic cement firms (Ssangyong Cement Industrial, Tongyang Cement and Energy, Lafarge Halla Cement and Hanil Cement) brought in 3.69Mt of coal from Japan from 2011, when the Fukushima nuclear accident occurred, until 2013. In return, they received a total of US$127m for waste disposal.
This is the first time that the amount of money Korea's cement firms received from importing Japanese coal has been revealed. Japanese coal imported to Korea stood at 1.11Mt, worth US$39.9m in 2011, 1.23Mt or US$45.5m in 2012 and 1.35Mt or US$42.2m in 2013. The amount has continued to increase over the past three years.
"The problem is that 20-73Bq/kg of radioactive cesium was detected in the Japanese coal," said Lee. "Though this level is lower than the safety threshold (370Bq), there is the possibility of cesium exposure in everyday life, given that coal is used in cement as well as other construction and industrial materials." If the level of cesium that is radioactive exceeds the safety threshold and permeates into body, it can cause osteomyelitis or thyroid cancer, among others.