Japanese leaders: radiation levels hit danger zone

In a nationally televised statement, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said radiation from the three stricken reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant has reached the danger zone: “The level seems very high, and there is still a very high risk of more radiation coming out.” Chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano added: “Now we are talking about levels that can damage human health.” He urged residents who have not heeded evacuation orders to close their doors and windows and not wear clothing that has hung outside. A fire is also reported in Fukushima Dai-ichi’s reactor Number 4, which means that four of the plant’s six reactors are in crisis. (Globe & Mail, DPA, March 15)

From Stars & Stripes:

The U.S. 7th Fleet has moved its ships and aircraft away from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant in Japan after low levels of contamination were detected in the air and found on the crews of three helicopters returning from disaster relief missions near Sendai.

The contamination found on the 17 crewmembers was easily removed by washing with soap and water, and the ship and aircraft move is only temporary, according to a 7th Fleet release.

Later, a message from Capt. Thom Burke appeared on the Reagan‘s Facebook page, confirming that the radiation levels detected were very low.

“To put this into perspective, the maximum radiation dose received was equal to the amount of natural background radiation one would receive in one month from sources such as rocks, soil and the sun,” the message said. “I have not seen any levels of radiation or contamination that would cause me to have any significant concerns at all.”

The USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group was en route to South Korea to participate in a joint South Korean-U.S. military exercise this week, when it was diverted to Japan in the wake of Friday’s earthquake and tsunami.

In some now-embarrassing quotes, PBS informed us just a few hours earlier (emphasis added):

In Vienna, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said the situation is unlikely to turn into an all-out crisis. And Japanese officials said the containment shells surrounding both reactors remain intact, with no evidence of widespread radiation exposure.

YUKIO EDANO, Japanese chief Cabinet secretary (through translator): It is true that irradiated materials which are not of a level that can cause harm to humans have been emitted, but they are moving within limits. So, there is no need for unreasonable worry. And I think people should respond calmly.

See our last post on the nuclear crisis.

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  1. Workers leave Fukushima plant
    From the New York Times, March 14:

    [The third explosion] diminished hopes earlier in the day that engineers at the plant, working at tremendous personal risk, might yet succeed in cooling down the most damaged of the reactors, No. 2, by pumping in sea water. According to government statements, most of the 800 workers at the plant had been withdrawn, leaving 50 or so workers in a desperate effort to keep the cores of three stricken reactors cooled with seawater pumped by firefighting equipment, while the same crews battled to put out the fire at the No. 4 reactor, which they claimed to have done just after noon on Tuesday.