Sunday, April 3, 2011

The primary task of a visiting U.S. nuclear emergency response team will be to help the Self-Defense Forces with operations related to the ongoing nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture, such as decontaminating residents and providing information to assist the SDF's medical activities. According to sources, the U.S. team will also prepare for unexpected contingencies, such as a large-scale radiation leak from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. About 10 members of the U.S. Marine Corps' Chemical Biological Incident Response Force arrived at U.S. Yokota Air Base in Tokyo on Saturday as an advance party. They arrived on a U.S. transport plane from Maryland. They will be joined by two similar units scheduled to arrive Sunday and Monday. In total, the response force will deploy 155 personnel to Japan. The team comprises six squads, with specialties such as detecting extremely dangerous levels of radiation, search-and-rescue operations in areas contaminated by radiation and decontaminating people exposed to radiation. The team will work from U.S. military bases in the Kanto region, under the command of Yokota Air Base's Joint Support Force. Currently, the Ground Self-Defense Force's Central Nuclear Biological Chemical Weapon Defense Unit, which is tasked with dealing with terrorist attacks using nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, is conducting decontamination and other activities in response to the Fukushima crisis. The U.S. team is expected to provide backup to the SDF in emergency situations. A government source said the dispatch of the U.S. team reflects the U.S. government's growing concern over the situation at the Fukushima plant. On Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates approved the dispatch of the response force after receiving a request from Adm. Robert Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command. According to the Defense Ministry, the U.S. response force was established in 1996 in the wake of the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, due to a belief that the U.S. government should be prepared for terrorist attacks using similar chemical weapons.


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