Winds Blowing New Radiation Release Farther into Japan

March 15, 2011; 9:01 AM ET
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Play video The possibility of radiation spreading from Japan to the United States is discussed in the above video.

Winds are putting more earthquake and tsunami survivors in Japan in danger of being exposed to the recent release of radiation from a crippled nuclear power plant.

Japanese authorities informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Monday night EDT that radioactivity was being released directly into the atmosphere.

The news came after the spent fuel storage pond at the Unit 4 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant caught on fire, possibly from a hydrogen explosion. The fire has since been extinguished.

Radiation dose rates as high as 400 millisievert per hour were detected at the nuclear plant after the fire.

The World Nuclear Association reported that that rate is 20 times the limit, averaged over five years, for radiological personnel, such as hospital workers.

A mother and daughter shut their mouth in fear of radiation exposure in Yamada, northern Japan, on Monday, March 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Yomiuri Shimbun, Takashi Ozaki)

One thousand millisievert in a short-term dose is roughly the threshold for an average person to suffer immediate radiation sickness. Such a dose would likely not cause death.

The radiation dose measured at Fukushima Daiichi is significantly lower than the dose of up to 20,000 millisieverts that the World Nuclear Association states was estimated on the first day of the Chernobyl accident of 1986.

"In the aftermath of Chernobyl, radiation spread over a significant portion of Europe and Asia," according to AccuWeather.com Staff Writer Gina Cherundolo.

More Japanese earthquake and tsunami survivors are in danger of being exposed to the recent release of radiation since winds continue to blow onto the northeastern Japanese coastline.

The winds are blowing in that fashion in response to the storm system delivering a cold rain and even snow to northern Japan this morning.

The wind direction will return to a protective offshore direction later today as the storm system departs and colder air invades. The harsh cold combined with snow will, however, pose added threats to the health of frail earthquake and tsunami survivors waiting to be rescued.

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