The United States on Wednesday advised Americans in Japan to evacuate to a greater distance from a damaged nuclear power plant than the Japanese government is advising. White House officials warn that the situation in Japan is deteriorating.
U.S. authorities are recommending that Americans stay 80 kilometers away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was badly damaged in last week’s earthquake and tsunami. Japanese officials have advised people to move 32 kilometers away from the facility.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the advice comes from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, whose chairman met with President Barack Obama earlier in the day. "Advice the Japanese government is giving, based on the information it has, is different from the advice that we would be giving, if this incident were happening in the United States of America," he said.
Earlier in the week, Carney advised Americans in Japan to follow the instructions of the Japanese government. He said Wednesday that the change in advice is based on the evolving situation at the power plant, and does not reflect a rift between Washington and Tokyo.
"It is not about the quality of information, it is about the standards set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission here in the United States and the kind of advice it would be giving should this incident happen in the United States, or something similar to it," he said.
The president’s spokesman said he would not judge Japan’s evaluation, but that the new recommendation is a separate analysis based on U.S. standards. "When there is a situation where our advice on what to do in reaction to this incident, to protect your physical safety, differs from the advice the government of Japan is giving, we will give separate and additional advice to American citizens in Japan," he said.
Carney also said the worsening condition of the Fukushima facility requires an evolving U.S. response. "The situation has deteriorated in the days since the tsunami, and that the situation has grown, at times, worse, with potential greater damage and fallout from the reactor. And that is why there is new information, based on a very fluid situation," he said.
Carney emphasized that Japan is leading the efforts to contain the radioactive emissions from the power plant and that the United States is assisting in any way it can.
He urged Americans in Japan to monitor the U.S. State Department website for information on the disaster, and to stay in contact with the U.S. embassy or consulate.
Carney also said there has been no consideration of having President Obama postpone his trip to Latin America later this week because of the crisis in Japan.