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Originally published Friday, March 18, 2011 at 12:37 PM

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Japan travel warnings upgraded; call for radiation checks

Japan travel warnings upgraded; call for radiation checks

Seattle Times travel writer

Warnings against travel to Japan increased Friday, with the governments of Australia and Great Britain urging citizens not to travel to Tokyo, or within 50 miles of the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, citing potentially dangerous radiation leaks.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg News reported that at least one foreign government, the German state of Hesse, is recommending that state agencies offer travelers flying directly from Japan the option of undergoing radioactive contamination tests at airports when they arrive.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs extended its no-go zone much wider than the 12-mile exclusion zone set by Japanese authorities. The government said it was following the United States in extending the zone. It also warned against travel in surrounding areas and northern Honshu.

British nationals were given similar advice Friday. The government told citizens to avoid Tokyo and Northeastern Japan, but said its advice did not apply to Hokkaido, due to its distance from Fukushima.

The U.S. State Department (http://travel.state.gov) continued to urge citizens to defer nonessential travel to all of Japan, and urged those there now to leave. On Wednesday, the department authorized the voluntary departure of family members of government personnel in Tokyo, Nagoya and Yokohama.

The International Civil Aviation Organization said, citing information from the World Health Organization and other international agencies, said screening for radiation of international passengers from Japan is not considered necessary at this time.

Delta and United Airlines are continuing to operate their daily nonstop flights between Seattle and Tokyo and Seattle and Osaka, Japan.

Sea-Tac Airport spokesman Perry Cooper said that the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents are using standard operating procedures for radiation detection as passengers and cargo come into the airport from overseas.

Agents have radiation detection devices on their belts "so every international passenger goes by these devices. Not just from Japan," Cooper said.

"There have been no harmful or elevated levels detected here, nor or are we expecting any. "The normal background radiation levels do appear, but they are equivalent to what your TV, an exit sign or cellphone puts out."

Carol Pucci: cpucci@seattletimes.com

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