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Special Marines team joins Fukushima mission

Date Posted: 2011-04-07

A 15-member advance team from a U.S. Marine Corps special unit has arrived at Yokota Air Base on the outskirts of Tokyo to help Japan contain the crisis at a crippled nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan.

Once the main contingent arrives on Sunday, the team from the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force will cooperate with Japan's Self-Defense Forces as part of the Joint Support Force. The JSF was set up at Yokota by the U.S. military to support the Japanese government. The CBIRF in Maryland was created after a deadly 1995 sarin gas attack by a religious cult on Tokyo's subway system and then enhanced after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. A total of 155 team members are being deployed to Japan, with six squad in specialties that vary from search and rescue operations in contaminated areas, decontamination processes for people exposed to radiation, and detecting dangerous levels of radiation.

The Japan Ground Self Defense Force’s Central Nuclear Biological Chemical Weapon Defense Unit, normally tasked with dealing with terrorist attacks using nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, is already on site conducting decontamination and other activities. The U.S. team will serve as a backup to the SDF in emergency situations.

The Marine Corps unit is primarily designed to rescue soldiers attacked by chemical and biological weapons and provide them with emergency medical treatment, but the CBIRF is also able to respond to nuclear accidents, with its capabilities including detecting and protecting against radiation as well as decontaminating those exposed to radiation and rendering emergency medical care. The dispatched team will cooperate with the SDF and deal with any worsening of the situation at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

At Fukushima, sources say the U.S. team will prepare for unexpected contingencies such as a large-scale radiation leak from the Fukushima No. 1 plan.

A U.S. Navy rear admiral with extensive knowledge of nuclear energy has been in Yokota and is already working with the Japanese government.

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