For auto suppliers with plants or offices in the exclusion zone, the battle to control radiation leaks and restore operations at Fukushima Daiichi could mean months of waiting before they can even return. And then there's the possibility of costly scrub-downs to remove lingering radiation contamination.
It is difficult to determine how many suppliers have operations in the exclusion zone. Automakers and Tier 1 suppliers refuse to identify them because the outlook is so uncertain. But some plants in the zone are empty.
Toyota and Honda say they have suppliers in the zone, but they don't give details.
"We don't have much information on these companies because they can''t get back into the plants," Honda spokesman Keitaro Yamamoto said.
NSK Ltd., a leading global supplier of bearings, also says it has one subsupplier in the zone.
And Akebono Brake Industry Co., which has a drum brake lining plant near Fukushima Daiichi, is operating that factory at partial output -- partly because of rolling blackouts and a lack of orders but also because of uncertainties about how the nearby radiation crisis will evolve, a spokesman said.
Meanwhile, Merck KGaA, the producer of a paint pigment for such automakers as Ford and Chrysler, has virtually abandoned its Japanese factory because it is too close to Fukushima's damaged nuclear reactors. The company says it will take up to eight weeks to restart production.
But that's only after it gains entry to the off-limits facility.
Japan's Nikkan Kogyo business newspaper identified oil seal maker Fujikura Composite and the brake pad maker Namie Japan Brake as being affected by radiation concerns.
Fujikura sits on the cusp of no man's land, and most of its employees have left the area.
Namie Japan Brake, a subsidiary of Japan Brake Industrial, has its disc brake pad plant in the exclusion zone and has had difficulty gaining access to assess damage, the paper said.
Nissan downplays radiation risks at Iwaki, after a visit there last week by CEO Carlos Ghosn.
"He gets more when he's flying on his plane back to Paris," Nissan spokesman Simon Sproule said of the radiation levels faced by Ghosn, also head of Nissan's French partner Renault SA.
Workers there are more worried about income than isotopes, he said.
"The biggest concern they've got is that we're going to pull out of Iwaki," Sproule said, adding that shutting the plant isn't an option. "They want jobs. They want to get back to work."