Japanese authorities are investigating how a substance that seems to be radioactive uranium came to be offered for sale on an online auction site, a nuclear official said on Thursday. The Mainichi Shimbun informed Thursday the uranium changed hands in January 2018 from one seller to numerous buyers. The defendants are alleged of “possibly” violating laws on nuclear regulation. Police are trying to confirm whether the product is radioactive, he said, with local media reporting investigators are questioning “a number of people” suspected of involvement in the sale and purchase of the substance.
An initial test of the removed powder found it to be radioactive, Kyodo News said. The Nuclear Regulation Authority received a report about a year ago about what was being billed as “uranium” on a popular auction site functioned by Yahoo! Japan. “We were asked, ‘Is it OK? How is it possible?’ We instantly called Yahoo!, which then took down the product,” an atomic agency official told AFP. The case was mentioned to police as the law requires special permits for transporting the ownership of uranium and other radioactive materials, he said. Tokyo Metropolitan Police refused to comment on the matter.
The agency thought the material was probable to be depleted uranium and uranium powder, the Mainichi reports. The paper also says the supplier claims to have bought the substance on a website outside Japan. The agency contacted Yahoo over the shocking sale, the auction was stopped and the case transferred to the police. Appraisals from the Japan Atomic Energy Agency show the uranium was likely depleted uranium — a type with a lower content of the fissile isotope U-235 than natural uranium — or perhaps uranium concentrate, also known as yellowcake. Yellowcake emits radiation at a slow rate.
Authorities have also asked the Japan Atomic Energy Agency to confirm whether the material is depleted uranium or uranium concentrate, Kyodo said. The product was enclosed in a glass tube and put on sale under the name of “Uranium 99.9 per cent” at a Yahoo online auction website, Kyodo said. Japan maintains tough laws against the trade of nuclear material, with punishment ranging from a one-year prison term to about $10,000 in fines. Police launched investigations as early as November 2017, when it learned of an advertisement for the product, according to Kyodo.
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