Information for Australians in Japan 19 March 2011

19 Mar 2011 8:31 AM | Anonymous
The Department of Health and Ageing and Australian Radiation Protection and
Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) has issued the following advice on exposure
to radiation arising from nuclear incidents in Japan, based on information
from Japanese authorities:

New INES rating and changed wind conditions: ARPANSA and the Department of
Health and Ageing has been continually assessing the nuclear situation in
Japan and has recommended, as a precautionary measure, that Australians
within an 80 km zone from the Fukushima nuclear power plant move out of the
area.

Note this recommendation is not based on any current danger in the zone,
but is a precautionary measure based on the current uncertainty.

The US has made a similar recommendation in accordance with the standard
guidelines of their Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Their guidelines would
require a zone of 80 km (50 miles) around the Fukushima nuclear power
plant.

ARPANSA is closely following the safety issues surrounding the Fukushima
Dai-ichi site and in particular the current status of effect of hydrogen
explosions, fire and aftershocks on the four reactor units and the status
of spent fuel ponds at a number of the reactor units. ARPANSA notes that
the Japanese Government has increased the INES rating for this event to
INES level 5 (an accident with wider consequences) for three of the reactor
units.

For those Australians in Japan but outside the affected areas, based on
current information, ARPANSA advises that, given the projected wind
conditions for the next 24 hours which are heading in a south east
direction, any radioactivity that may eventuate from a deterioration in the
current status of any of the Fukushima Dai-ichi reactor units, would be
dispersed over the sea.

However, the weather forecasts predict a weather change on the morning of
Sunday March 20. From Sunday morning, the behaviour of the winds is quite
complex, with many wind shifts over the subsequent days. Any airborne
radioactivity released during this period is predicted to pass across
mainland Japan.

Given these predicted weather conditions if there is a significant release
of radioactive material there is the potential for people in the Fukushima
area and other parts of mainland Japan to be exposed to some level of
radiation. Outside the 80 km protective zone the impacts on human health
are still expected to be low. The radiation levels within the 80 km
protective zone will vary with direction and distance from the release
point.

As the situation continues to develop, all Australians in Japan are
strongly encouraged to follow the protective measures recommended by the
Japanese and Australian Governments. This may include sheltering.

Australians returning home from Japan are highly unlikely to be
contaminated or exposed to significant radiation and will not require
checks for radioactivity. However, if people wish to seek medical advice
they should contact their local GP.

ARPANSA and the Chief Medical Officer advise that iodine tablets are only
required when exposed to substantial radiation doses from radioactive
iodine. There is no current need for those returning from Japan or those in
Japan outside the exclusion Zone to consider the use of potassium iodide
tablets.

Meetings have been held with GP representatives, the Department of Health
and Ageing, and ARPANSA to ensure that people who present with inquiries
about radiation exposure will receive consistent advice.

Discussions are ongoing between jurisdictions. Further information will
continue to be provided by the Australian Government as the situation
develops.

Advice to Australians remaining in Japan:

Current Situation

The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on 11 March 2011 has damaged a
number of nuclear reactors on the east coast of Japan resulting in release
of radioactive contaminants to the atmosphere. The Japanese Government has
imposed evacuation zones and shelter in place zones around affected
reactors in Fukushima prefecture. These protective action zones may be
revised by the Japanese Government as circumstances change.

What should Australians remaining in Japan do?

Australians remaining in Japan should follow any protective measures
recommended by the Japanese Government. This may include evacuation or
shelter in place orders..

Australians remaining in Japan should not travel into the official
evacuation or shelter in place zones. As a precautionary measure, it is
recommended that Australians within an 80 km radius of the Fukushima
Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant move out of the area.

ARPANSA and the Chief Medical Officer advise that iodine prophylaxis is
only required when exposed to substantial radiation doses from radioactive
iodine. The current situation does not require administration of iodine
prophylaxis. This situation may change and Australians remaining in Japan
should follow recommendations of the Japanese Government in this regard.

What are the symptoms of radiation exposure?

Radiation health effects are related to the magnitude and duration of
exposure. Australians remaining in Japan may be exposed to low levels of
radiation associated with contaminants released from the damaged nuclear
reactors. Low level radiation exposure produces no physical symptoms. There
is no specific health test available for low level radiation exposure and
no medical treatment is required.

Australians in Japan may find www.mofa.go.jp/ an helpful English language
website with local information.

Advice to Australians returning from Japan who have concerns about possible
exposure to radiation:

Current Situation:

The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on 11 March 2011 has damaged a
number of nuclear reactors on the east coast of Japan resulting in release
of radioactive contaminants to the atmosphere. The Japanese Government has
imposed evacuation zones and shelter in place zones around affected
reactors in Fukushima prefecture. The Australian Government has recommended
that Australians within an 80 km radius of the damaged reactors in
Fukushima move out of the area.

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) is
closely monitoring the nuclear situation in Japan. ARPANSA advises that for
Australians returning from Japan there is a chance of exposure to low
levels of radiation associated with releases from damaged nuclear reactors.
Exposures are more probable for those who were in Fukushima prefecture or
immediate surrounding areas subsequent to 11 March 2011. In addition
Australians who were in the region of the recently revised exclusion zone
of up to 80 km away from the reactors would have been exposed to even lower
levels of radiation as they were even further away.

What to do if you are worried?

As precautionary measures people should shower, washing hair and body, and
wash clothes. These simple measures should effectively remove any low level
contamination which may have been present. There has been advice given in
related information about circumstances where stable iodine may be required
to be administered. There is no requirement for the administration of
stable iodine for someone returning to Australian from either the official
evacuation zone of 20 km or the Australian government's revised evacuation
zone of 80km.

If on return to Australia you or your family are concerned about possible
exposure to radiation, you should visit your local GP and let them know
where in Japan you were.

What are the symptoms of radiation exposure?

Radiation health effects are related to the magnitude and duration of
exposure. Australians returning from Japan may have been exposed to low
levels of radiation associated with contaminants released from damaged
nuclear reactors. Low level radiation exposure produces no physical
symptoms. There is no specific health test available for low level
radiation exposure and no medical treatment is required.


*Current as at 0300 hrs (AEDST) on 19 March 2011.  This information will be
updated every six hours or more frequently as required.*


Other information

Incidents at Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant:

There have been three explosions at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in
Okumacho in Fukushima Prefecture since 12 March. The plant is located on
the east coast of Honshu 240 kilometres north of Tokyo.
Japanese authorities have declared an evacuation zone around the facility.
Efforts to suppress fires at the facility and to stabilise the damaged
plant are continuing.

While information on radiation levels and wind direction appear unchanged
the situation at the power plant is not stable and it is unclear what will
evolve.

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission has provided a Protective
Action Recommendation to US residents in Japan that it is appropriate for
US residents within 80 kilometres (50 miles) of the Fukushima reactor to
evacuate.

Australians should not travel to the area surrounding the affected power
plant. Australians within 80 kilometres of the facility should evacuate
immediately and follow the instructions of authorities.

Disruption to essential services:

Telephone and communications services have also been severely disrupted
throughout the affected area as a result of damaged infrastructure. JR
trains and road networks are heavily affected throughout the tsunami and
earthquake affected area.

The most heavily affected areas are also without essential services and
there are reports of shortages of food and water.

There has been significant disruption to essential services in other parts
of Japan since 11 March. Tokyo and surrounding earthquake-affected
districts have been subject to unpredictable disruptions to essential
services such as transport and electric power. There are reports of
shortages of supplies to retail outlets in the region. This includes the
deliberate shutdown of some train links and power services by Japanese
authorities seeking to divert electricity elsewhere. Information on power
cuts is available on the Tokyo Electric Power Company website.

Because of disruption to essential services, infrastructure damage, strong
aftershocks and continuing uncertainty about the status of the Fukushima
Nuclear Power Plant, Australians in Tokyo and northern Honshu should,
unless their presence in Japan is essential, make arrangements to leave;
either to Southern Japan or elsewhere. It is for the same reasons that the
Australian Government is authorising the voluntary departure of dependants
of Australian officials from Tokyo.

On 13 March 2011, Japanese officials announced a program of rolling power
cuts that will affect other parts of Japan. These power cuts will commence
in Tokyo on 14 March and are likely to affect a range of services such as
railways and communications networks, and may include parts of the country
not affected by the earthquake and tsunami. Authorities have blocked the
main freeways to north east Honshu due to the damage in these areas. Please
note weather condition as some of these Prefectures still have snow.

Narita Airport has re-opened, although flights to and from the Airport are
experiencing disruptions. Train services to the Airport will be subject to
intermittent disruption due to rolling electricity cuts aimed at conserving
power. These cuts will affect many parts of Japan. On 14 March 2011, train
services to Narita airport have been cancelled. Other rail services are
likely to be affected. You should expect lengthy delays if travelling to
Narita airport by road. You should allow sufficient travel time to make
your scheduled flight. Sendai, Yamagata and Hanamaki airports in Tohoku
(northern) region remain closed. Amami and Kikajima airports in Kagoshima
Prefecture in Kyushu are also closed. Haneda Airport in Tokyo is running
some flights. Osaka Airport is operational.

There is currently good availability on commercial flights out of Japan to
Australia and elsewhere eg. Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. You should
check with your airline or travel agent for the latest information on
flights. There is an Embassy team at Narita airport to provide assistance
as necessary.

The government will continue to monitor commercial flight availability and
will remain in contact with commercial airlines about the need for
additional commercial services, if the need arises.

Travel to other parts of Japan:

Australians should exercise a high degree of caution in parts of Japan
unaffected by the earthquake and tsunami. You should carefully consider
your need to undertake such travel at this time due to the disruption to
transport hubs in and around Tokyo. You should also consider the disruption
from rolling power cuts on your travel plans in other parts of Japan.

Australians in the affected areas should monitor local news and radio and
follow the advice of local authorities in the first instance. Radio
stations in the Tokyo area that have emergency information in English
include the US Armed Forces station at 810AM and InterFM(76.1FM).

If you are in Japan and require assistance, you can contact the Australian
Embassy in Tokyo on 03 5232 4111 and you will be transferred to the Crisis
Centre in Canberra.

If concerned about friends and relatives: If you are concerned about
Australians in Japan you should in the first instance try to contact them
directly. If this is unsuccessful, you can contact the Department of
Foreign Affairs and Trade 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261
3305 (from overseas) or 1300 555 135 (within Australia).

This bulletin should be read in conjunction with our travel advice for
Japan on www.smartraveller.gov.au.


DFAT Crisis Centre
Canberra, Australia
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