Continued from page 1

“You are not safe if you are 21 kilometers [13 miles] away,” he said in an interview, when asked if a meltdown could threaten people in Tokyo, about 155 miles southwest of the reactor.

“In a worst-case scenario, radiation could come to Tokyo if the wind was blowing in the right direction,” he said.

“A nuclear disaster, which the promoters of nuclear power in Japan said wouldn’t happen, is in progress. We warned that Japan’s nuclear power plants could be subjected to much stronger earthquakes and much bigger tsunamis than they were designed to withstand.”

International officials, experts and activists differed on the potential fallout in Japan.

“This is not a serious public health issue at the moment,” said Malcolm Crick, secretary of the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation.

“It won’t be anything like Chernobyl. There the reactor was operating at full power when it exploded, and it had no containment,” he said, referring to the world’s worst nuclear-power accident, in Ukraine in 1986.

“Many people thought they’d been exposed after Three Mile Island,” he said of the nuclear accident in Pennsylvania in 1979. “The radiation levels were detectable; but in terms of human health, it was nothing.”

Authorities in Japan, meanwhile, urged people near the plant to stay inside, shut windows, and wear clothing to protect their skin from potential radiation.

The earthquake and tsunami killed 1,400 people, according to official estimates. Hundreds are missing. However, police in one of the worst-hit areas feared the death toll could reach 10,000.

At least 1.4 million households remained without water Sunday, and 2 million households had no electricity. Officials plan to begin power rationing with rolling blackouts Monday in several cities, including Tokyo.

The government also doubled the number of troops pressed into rescue operations to about 100,000.

Dozens of countries have offered assistance. Two U.S. aircraft carrier groups were off Japan’s coast and ready to help. Helicopters were flying from one of the carriers, the USS Ronald Reagan, delivering food and water.

Two other U.S. rescue teams, including one from Fairfax County, Va., and rescue dogs arrived Sunday.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.