Update 1: Japan nuclear energy plant event
17 March 2011 | GENEVA -- WHO's Western Pacific Regional Office and WHO headquarters have mobilized to provide support to Japan after an earthquake on March 11 triggered a devastating tsunami that has killed thousands of people and severely damaged several nuclear reactors in a power generation facility in the north-east of the country.
The Japanese Government has evacuated a 20 km zone around the Fukushima Daiichi power station and has advised residents living between 20 km and 30 km of the facility to remain indoors. These recommendations are in line with those based on accepted public health expertise.
The nuclear emergency has compounded an already complex disaster. Engineers have been struggling to stabilize the reactors. It is a serious situation that is constantly changing. The specialist United Nations agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is liaising with the Japanese Government and is monitoring events.
WHO is aware of concerns about health and safety following the release of radioactivity from the reactors after a series of explosions and fires. WHO is closely working with the Government of Japan, the IAEA and other UN agencies to ensure that any public health risks arising from the disaster are accurately assessed. The IAEA is briefing UN agencies and other partners as part of an established emergency response plan.
WHO has been receiving questions about how people can protect themselves from the negative health effects of radiation. Radiation-related health consequences will depend on exposure. The people most at risk are those closest to the power station.
The Organization has published information on personal protective measures ranging from how to avoid radiation exposure, when it is appropriate to take potassium iodide pills, and general advice to food consumers and producers.