Tokyo: The US sent a special nuclear response team trained to handle nuclear accidents and terrorism to Japan soon after the outbreak of the March 2011 nuclear disaster, but Tokyo was slow to make use of radiation data from the unit, according to a media report.
This was the first dispatch of the Consequence Management Response Team (CMRT) for an emergency outside the United States.
The team, affiliated with the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous agency of the Energy Department, is tasked with dealing with nuclear accidents and terrorism in the United States by detecting and analysing radiation contamination.
The Japanese government, however, did not acknowledge the significance of the team`s mission and failed to immediately utilise the initial data provided by the team for evacuation of residents living around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
In recent interviews with Kyodo News, US sources involved in making the decision to dispatch the team said that on March 14, 2011, three days after the nuclear disaster began, the White House`s National Security Council decided to send the CMRT to Fukushima Prefecture at the request of US Forces Japan and the US Embassy in Tokyo.
The CMRT is dispatched to nuclear-disaster zones equipped with the Aerial Measuring System (AMS), an airborne system using military aircraft to detect gamma rays from altitudes of about 150 to 700 metres and calibrate doses of radiation with the help of highly advanced analytical software.
The AMS technology was first developed in the 1960s in the context of the Cold War when the United States and the Soviet Union conducted atmospheric nuclear testing.
Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, its capability to deal with nuclear terrorism has been enhanced.
The US military and embassy requested the team`s dispatch as US troops were engaged in the "Operation Tomodachi (Operation Friendship)" relief mission in the early weeks after the nuclear disaster triggered by the huge earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
The AMS data "helped confirm that there was no significant threat to the health and safety of the people" at US military bases in Japan, one US government source said.
"So I think that was the primary reason" for the dispatch of the special team, the source said.