Japan nuclear fallout spreads across Pacific to the US
Radiation levels too low to pose a danger: officials
Radioactive fallout from Japan's crippled nuclear plant has reached the US, with experts saying there is a small chance it could soon reach Britain.
Readings of the radiation in southern California are said to be far below levels which could pose a health hazard, however.
And the UK's Health Protection Agency stressed there was no health risk to British residents from the release of radioactive material from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant.
The evacuation of Britons from the disaster-hit country gathered pace as the situation at the dangerously overheated nuclear facility continued to deteriorate.
The emergency was sparked by last Friday's 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which has left more than 6,500 dead and 10,300 missing.
A US diplomat with access to radiation tracking by the UN's Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) cited initial readings from a California-based measuring station.
These were “about a billion times beneath levels that would be health-threatening”, he said.
The Nuclear Energy Agency, part of the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, said radiation from the plant was likely to reach everywhere in the northern hemisphere but in small quantities.
Ted Lazo, who is responsible for radiation protection, said: “The quantities you will detect are very, very small and certainly in the UK would pose absolutely no health risk whatsoever, but it will be detectable.”
Meteogroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said it was possible but unlikely that the radiation would cross Europe in the next week or two.
The Japanese authorities have raised the rating of the nuclear crisis to a level five from level four on a seven-point scale for nuclear incidents. The scale defines a level four incident as having local consequences and a level five incident as having wider consequences.
As efforts to bring the situation under control continued, military fire trucks sprayed water on overheating reactor units at the plant for a second day.
Buses and planes ferried people to safety, with 24 British nationals leaving tsunami-flattened Sendai at midday local time on two coaches heading for Tokyo.
The Foreign Office block-booked seats for Britons wanting to fly home on commercial flights.
Those directly affected by last week's devastating earthquake and tsunami can fly free of charge.
Others will pay £600 per seat.
English teacher Maddie Smith (23) from Suffolk left Sendai yesterday. She told the Norwich Evening News: “We are getting on an embassy bus that goes to Tokyo, then from there we are heading south of the country to keep away from the nuclear plant.
“We did want to stay and help but do not want to take up their limited resources.”
Some 17,000 Britons were believed to be in Japan when the catastrophe occurred but there are no reports of any British casualties. The number of British citizens remaining in the country is still not known.