Chief U.S. Nuke Response Team Deployed to Japan

The nation's chief nuclear response team has deployed its experts to Japan to assess dangers posed by the nuclear crisis in the wake of the devastating magnitude 9 earthquake.

A team from the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy that protects America's nuclear weapons, left from Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas on Monday, an NNSA spokesman confirmed to

The 33-member team, which includes experts from the NNSA and DOE, was sent to assist another six-person DOE team already on the ground.

NNSA spokesman Damien LaVera said the nuclear experts, known as the Consequence Management Response Teams, will use their expertise and 17,200 pounds of equipment to gauge the radiation risks from Japan's earthquake-damaged nuclear plant.

"These teams have the skills, expertise and equipment to help assess, survey, monitor and sample areas for radiation," the DOE said in a statement.

The NNSA team works out of the National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center, or NARAC, which provides predictive atmospheric modeling capabilities based on hypothetical or real-world scenarios -- or both. The experts also factor in weather conditions -- like wind changes or rain -- to predict the threat of the situation.

NARAC currently maintains that the U.S. West Coast is not at risk for radiation exposure from Japan's nuclear plant.