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Japanese officials acknowledged for the first time that radiation released from damaged reactors was sufficient to be “harmful to human health.”

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On a conference call with reporters prior to the explosion, Damon Moglen, director of the climate and energy project at Friends of the Earth, said that his organization had obtained a memo issued by the French government cautioning that if the worst-case scenario should occur, large amounts of radioactivity could reach densely populated Tokyo “within hours,” and advising its nationals to spend a few days elsewhere if they could.

Experts say there is minimal risk to human health on the West Coast of the US because the distance that radioactivity would have to travel is so great that it would be highly dispersed by the time it arrived. But earlier in the day, radioactivity was detected on the USS Ronald Reagan, which had been positioned off the coast of Honshu Island. The Ronald Reagan is the leading vessel in a group of ships from the 7th fleet that has been assisting the Japanese Self-Defense Force. Al Jazeera reports that as of Tuesday evening, “US 7th Fleet ships conducting disaster response operations in the area moved out of the downwind direction from the site.” Damon Moglen told reporters that the U.S. government hadn’t released any details about the type or quantity of contamination that was discovered on the ship, information he argued the public “has a right to know.”

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