Tuesday, May 17, 2011

U.S. State Department Updates Travel Alert for Japan

On May 16th 2011 the U.S. State Department updated its Travel Alert for Japan that was dated April 14, 2011. The department is updating its recommendation on the safe use of the Tohoku Expressway and the Tohoku Shinkansen Railway through the 50-mile evacuation area. Using the same analysis the State Department would use in a similar situation in the United States, the U.S. government believes it is safe for U.S. citizens to use the railway and expressway for transit through the area. Other portions of the Travel Alert remain unchanged from the Alert published on April 14. This Travel Alert expires on July 15, 2011.

The assessment by technical and subject matter experts across United States government agencies is that while the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant remains serious and dynamic, the health and safety risks to areas beyond the 50-mile evacuation zone, and particularly to Tokyo, Nagoya (Aichi Prefecture), Yokohama (Kanagawa Prefecture), nearby U.S. military facilities, and the prefectures of Akita, Aomori, Chiba, Gunma, Iwate, Nagano, Niigata, Saitama, Shizuoka, Tochigi and Yamanashi, and those portions of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures which are outside a 50-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are low and do not pose significant risks to U.S. citizens.

The assessment reflects inputs from American national laboratories as well as the unanimous opinion of the U.S. scientific experts on the ground in Japan. Furthermore, they are consistent with practices that would be taken in the United States in such a situation. Based on the much-reduced rate of heat generation in the reactor fuel after one month of cooling and the corresponding decay of short-lived radioactive isotopes, even in the event of an unexpected disruption at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, harmful exposures to people beyond the 50-mile evacuation zone are highly unlikely, and there would be a significant amount of time to best assess any steps that might have to be taken.

On April 14, 2011, the Department of State lifted Voluntary Authorized Departure, allowing dependents of U.S. government employees to return to Japan. The Alert states, “Out of an abundance of caution, we continue to recommend that U.S. citizens avoid travel within the 50-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. U.S. citizens who are still within this radius should evacuate or shelter in place.” For more information, visit http://travel.state.gov.