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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

US Navy protects crews, families against Japan radiation

Washington (ANTARA News/AFP) - A US naval flotilla stepped up precautions against radiation from a damaged nuclear power plant as it continued its humanitarian mission off the coast of quake-hit Japan, military officials here said Tuesday.

"We continue to monitor the winds closely, moving our ships and aircraft as necessary to avoid the windline from the Fukushima Power Plant," a US military statement said.

"Aircraft and aircrews returning from missions ashore are being monitored carefully for contamination, and are conducting decontamination procedures as necessary when it is detected."

Officials said family member of the service members were also being monitored, and were subject to the same restrictions as the military crew members.

Military officials said that among the measures taken was restricting outdoor activities and securing the vessels` external ventilation systems.

"These measures are strictly precautionary in nature. We do not expect that any United States federal radiation exposure limits will be exceeded even if no precautionary measures are taken," the statement said.

Several US vessels, including the aicraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, are positioned off the coast of Japan on a humanitarian mission in response to Friday`s massive 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami.

The welfare of the US crews has become a concern however, after airborne radioactivity appeared to have been emitted from the disabled nuclear power plant.

On Monday, tests on three helicopter aircrews returning to the carrier after conducting missions near Sendai identified low levels of radioactivity on 17 air crew members.

Military officials said the radioactive particles were easily removed from affected personnel by washing with soap and water, and that no additional radiation was found upon subsequent inspection.

Tens of thousands of residents have been evacuated from a broad area around the Fukushima plant, located some 155 miles (250 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo.(*)

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