S. Korea strengthens customs clearance for Japanese coal waste for cement plants

09, Aug. 2019

SEOUL, AJU - As part of retaliatory steps, South Korea will strengthen customs clearance for Japanese coal waste, citing fears of radioactive and heavy metal contamination. Domestic cement plants have imported cinder discharged from Japanese thermal power plants for use as raw materials.

The Environment Ministry said in a statement on Thursday that it would strengthen environmental safety management procedures for imports of Japanese coal waste. Ministry data showed that of imported waste estimated at 2.53 million tons in 2018, coal waste accounted for 1.27 million tons.

Data from the Korea Customs Service showed Japanese products accounted for the bulk of coal waste estimated at 11.82 million tons South Korea has imported for about 10 years from 2009 to the first half of this year.

Importers should submit an authorized radioactive inspection report and the analysis of heavy metal components. For use as cement raw materials, the concentration of cesium and iodine, which are artificial radionuclides, should be below the level of standard and the content of lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury should be within recycling criteria.

Those who wish to import waste are required to submit the results of simplified radiation measurement at each customs clearance, but cement manufacturers have installed fixed radiation monitors to automatically transmit measurement results to environmental agencies, the ministry said.

The ministry has checked the authenticity of measurement results on a quarterly basis, but it vowed to investigate all cases that are subject to customs clearance and take corresponding measures if problems are detected. Government officials would form a consultative body with cement and power generation companies to utilize coal waste reclaimed at home and find alternative materials.