Denmark Sends Experts to Japan as Part of Coordinated EU Relief Effort
    2011-03-18 23:44:58     Xinhua      Web Editor: Zhang
 
Denmark is sending a nuclear expert and logistical support staff to Japan as part of a European Union coordinated emergency aid mission, the Defense Ministry said Friday.

An expert in radiology and nuclear radiation from the Danish Emergency Management Agency (DEMA), an emergency response organization linked to Denmark's Ministry of Defense, will participate in the EU team mandated to coordinate EU support efforts in Japan.

A magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck offshore Japan on March 11, creating a massive tsunami that swept over low-lying areas, carrying boats, cars and even buildings with it and destroying nearly everything in its path. More than 6,900 people are confirmed dead so far, and another 10,700 are missing.

The disaster also damaged the seaside Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, which remains in crisis as workers struggle under dangerous conditions to prevent a meltdown and major radiation leaks.

The EU relief effort follows a formal request for support made Tuesday by Japan via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

"I have previously said that we would be ready to help if asked, and am happy to announce that the Danish Emergency Management Agency has now been asked to support via the EU's emergency relief effort," Gitte Lillelund Bech, Denmark's defense minister, said in a statement.

"In this way we can contribute Danish expertise to the multinational relief effort in Japan," she said.

DEMA announced Thursday that it will also send six logistics experts to assist the EU team with transportation, accommodations and communications services in Japan.

It has also offered to donate 40,000 blankets via the EU relief effort, should Japan require them, a DEMA official told Xinhua.

Separate from the EU mission, an atomic physicist from Denmark's State Institute for Radiation Protection, and a section head from DEMA, are also heading to Tokyo to advise the Danish embassy there on emergency preparedness and radiation-related issues.

"They will take radiation measurement equipment with them to the embassy, and will also help distribute iodine tablets," the DEMA official said.

RADIATION THREAT

A radiation poisoning threat is growing as the damaged nuclear plant is believed to be emitting high levels of radioactivity.

Bent Lauritzen from the Radiation Research Division at Denmark's Technical University told Xinhua that taking iodine (potassium iodide) tablets reduces the risk of absorbing radioactive iodine. However, it cannot protect against radiation poisoning by other radioactive products.

"If you take this iodine tablet before you are exposed to radioactivity, the body will not take up the radioactive iodine," he said. This is because the body's thyroid gland gets saturated with iodine supplied by the tablets, and does not need to absorb more iodine from the surrounding environment.

"But it is just to reduce radiation harm from the radioactive iodine in the area... not from anything else," Lauritzen stressed.

As a precaution against radiation poisoning, the Japanese government has evacuated residents from areas within a 20-km radius from the plant and advised those within a 30-km radius to stay indoors.

Hoping to avoid a nuclear meltdown, Japan's Self-Defense Forces used helicopters to dump several tons of water on the plant's crippled No. 3 reactor on Thursday, while fire trucks sprayed water directly into the other reactors and their spent-fuel pools, in an attempt to cool them and curb radioactive emissions.

As of Friday, the plant's operators were racing to re-connect electric supply to the Fukushiima plant and re-start the pumps normally used to circulate cooling water around the its reactors. The pumps stopped working shortly after the earthquake and tsunami hit.
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