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Relief Work
Special> Earthquake in Japan> Relief Work
UPDATED: March 18, 2011
Pentagon Sends 9 Hazards Experts to Japan

The U.S. Defense Department said Thursday it has sent a nine-member hazards expert team to Japan, which is dealing with potentially catastrophic scenario stemming from a quake and tsunami damaged nuclear power plant.

Pentagon spokesman Dave Lapan said the experts were from the U.S. Northern Command, based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. The team was scheduled to arrive in Japan later in the day.

"The team will provide technical advice on chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and hazardous material, as well as medical and logistical (support)," he said. "They will report to the commander of U.S. Forces in Japan and work closely with the Japanese military to evaluate and assess whether more U.S. help is needed."

In addition to sending experts, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has authorized up to $35 million in initial Defense Department funds for humanitarian aid to Japan. The funding is in addition to $8 million in total planned aid to Japan from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The funds will be used to help earthquake and tsunami survivors on the main Japanese island of Honshu, where damage to reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has prompted DOD to authorize the voluntary departure of eligible family members from the island to the designated "safe haven" of the United States.

As a precautionary step for U.S. service members, Lapan said, the Defense Department is moving supplies of potassium iodide and possibly other compounds from the continental United States in case they are needed. Potassium iodide is used in radiation emergencies to help in protecting the thyroid gland from poisoning with radioactive iodine, one of the products released during a nuclear accident.

(Xinhua News Agency March 17, 2011)

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